[This report is being filed by Erin Kreeger, a member of Texas Forums, graduate of the Fielding Graduate University’s Certification in Dialogue, Deliberation and Public Engagement and an adviser to the University of Houston Downtown’s Center for Public Deliberation. Erin will be an ongoing guest blogger for Texas Forums so check back often to hear her insights!]
On April 4th and 5th around 25 incredible people gathered at The University of Houston – Downtown Center for Public Deliberation for a powerful workshop on moderating and recording public deliberation forums. These forums are opportunities for people to join together with others to talk about difficult issues, gain new insights on ways to approach those issues and to choose ways to work towards creating powerful individual and group action, including influencing public policy. The workshop provided an opportunity for people who may not have done something like this before to learn from some seasoned experts, to learn from each other, to practice participating in two deliberative forums (one on the achievement gap in education and one of the energy problem), to moderate a forum, to record insights and themes from the forums and to begin building a community of practice. How great is that!
Though two day workshops can be challenging to design in a way that’s flexible enough to adapt to people’s needs and questions yet structured enough to end on time, this planning team did that brilliantly – keeping us engaged for the entire 2 days – including 7 hours of Saturday time. Here’s what participants had to say about what worked really well and what could be done differently next time.
What I’m taking with me/Keep It!
- Role playing/Practice moderating forums
- Intentional prep activities – not arbitrary
- I was engaged
- Power of communication
- The workshop kept moving
- Good to have to jump into activities
- Having multiple instructors
- The printed materials to read later instead of being read to
- Applicable – can apply ideas right away
- Great modeling of practices
- Strength of moderators and their stories
What I’m leaving behind/Drop it
- Need clearer directions to get to the center
- More vegetarian food options/easy to identify veggie food
- More signs in building directing to room
- Want video of the practice forum
At the end of the workshop, one participant said that she felt she had found her public deliberation family. I find that feeling of community is inspiring and happens a lot in this line of work. But what’s especially exciting to me about this particular workshop is that The University of Houston Downtown Center for Public Deliberation in partnership with Texas Forums has the skill, desire and dedication to provide those family member with the resources they need to stay connected and to convene, moderate and record public deliberation forums so that community members of all backgrounds have the opportunity to meet with each other in a public dialogue, to identify the concerns they hold in common and to create action on issues that are important to them. That’s something I’m excited to be a part of. It’s a great example of inviting change.