Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Archive for the ‘Workshops and Seminars’ Category

Logo

Date: May 15, 2009
Time: 8:30 a.m. – 4:30 p.m.
Place: LBJ Presidential Library and Museum
FREE, BUT REGISTRATION REQUIRED

In
1966, President Lyndon B. Johnson signed the Freedom of Information Act, a landmark law that profoundly changed how citizens can learn about their government.

On May 15, 2009, the Lyndon Baines Johnson Presidential Library and Museum, and the LBJ School of Public Affairs of the University of Texas
at Austin, in co-sponsorship with the Freedom of Information Foundation of Texas, will co-host this free, one-day conference with speakers and panelists interacting simultaneously, through videoconferencing, in Austin, Texas and Washington, D.C.

The topics to be covered will include:

  • Innovations in fiscal transparency online
  • Technologies for monitoring legislation and spending
  • The “right-to-know” agenda for the 21st century
  • Innovation in the states
  • The future of “i-government”
  • Citizen participation online
  • How technologists can help

This event is meant for public sector managers and leaders, elected officials, nonprofit advocates, technologists and developers, and citizens interested in transforming government with new online tools.

President Barack Obama’s “Day One” action, on January 21, 2009, emphasized his commitment to open and free government information, spelled out in his Freedom of Information Act Memorandum, the very first order the new President issued from the White House.

Already there is an explosion of new tools on the Internet to access government information in innovative ways.

The one-day conference, “Open Government on the Internet: A New Era of
Transparency,” will look at these developments through the eyes of nationally prominent speakers and the participation of the audience.

Featured speakers include

  • Bill Bradley, The Hon. Former Senator
  • Vivek Kundra, White House Chief Information Officer
  • Susan Combs, Texas State Comptroller
  • Ellen Miller, Sunlight Foundation Director

For more information and to register…

Read Full Post »

[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
  • Food
  • 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.

Read Full Post »

At the UHD workshop on Day 1 we had people work in small groups to craft responses to challenges that a moderator might encounter. Tom Workman did a fabulous job of leading this exercise. I’m glad that we have a video recording so I can go back and harvest his pearls of wisdom.

People are just waiting their turn to “have their say” 

Ask the participants to relate their comments to what they heard earlier. Listening is not just reloading. Talk about what good listening is during the groundrules. The investment in the groundrules up front is really critical. We may need to return to the groundrules, but need to do so in a way that doesn’t make it sound like we are the groundrule police.

The moderator can say, who else has a story that relates to what we are hearing. This is bridging. another tactic is to ask if there are other perspectives.

All comments are directed to the moderator

Encourage responses from others non-verbally. Redirect the comment. Sometimes the moderator needs to step back so that they don’t seem to be the center of attention. There are some non-verbal cues we can use such as literally stepping back. Chairs are set in a circle which takes the moderator out of the “front of the room.” Also, don’t be afraid of silence. Trust the silence. If the moderator is too quick to speak up, then it puts them back into the driver seat. Remaining silent tells the group that it is ok that no one has anything to say right now. Also, spreading hands out to the group and using “we” language.

There are “sidebar” conversations or interruptions

Invite the sidebar conversation into the larger conversation. Ask them if they have something to add. “You seem to be having a lively conversation. Would you like to share?” “Can I get the group to bring this back into one conversation?” We are nice people and worry about someone getting offended, but allowing sidebar conversations is unfair to the rest of the group. Remember that some people are not accustomed to speaking to the large group. Perhaps those engaged in sidebar conversations want to speak and do so with a subset of the group. Help them feel comfortable contributing to the larger group.

The group mainly concurs on each choice

Push beyond the ramifications; press for details. Provide motivation for understanding an alternative point of view. At some point they will have to take their deliberation to a wider audience so moving beyond full agreement would be excellent preparation for going out into the community. Some moderators use an empty chair to symbolize who might have a different perspective.

The pro arguments have no negative consequences

Moderator can serve as a devil’s advocate. How do we get people to think about the outcome? There is a difference between agreement and consequences, so perhaps we need a different strategy than playing devil’s advocate. “Consequences” may not be a term that people can relate to so be prepared to use different terms such as “side effects.” The NIF materials are stuctured so that there are consequences or downsides for each approach.

People speak theoretically/analytically

Ask people to give an example. Reframe the ultimate question. Ask “why?” and “why is that important to you?” Bring people back to the stories.

The forum is cerebral and lacking feeling

Ask for a personal story that relates to whatever is being discussed. Ask what people are willing to give up. These strategies help to make the issue real. We can ask people to share feelings. But we have to be careful because it is an odd experience going through a forum because you are revealing yourself, but you are still holding something back. This is not a group therapy session, after all.  Another counter point is that sometimes people don’t want to talk about their feelings because they don’t want to generalize their feelings onto the group. They often appreciate the chance to divorce from their feelings so that they can be more open. We need to talk more about the role of emotion in public deliberation. The quest that we want to continue to talk about is, how do we incorporate safely issues related to emotions.

Remember, that it is important for the moderator to feel comfortable and to develop their own style.

Comments ignore prior comments

Reframe the comments, and summarize. Refer back to earlier comments. Return to the earlier comment and ask the person if they could say more.

Reflection on the exercise: 

All of the ways in which things can go off track are just part of human nature. These are not bad, nor are they malicious. These things just happen and we carry on.
Part of the problem is that this is not how we are conditioned to talk. We have been taught to sit down and shut up or stand up and shout. Where do we go to practice the skill of deliberation?

Tom’s charge to moderators. However you do this is good. There is something valuable in the stumbling. So what if we never get to #3. Something may have happened in that group that is valuable information. It is our desire to make it work, but we need to allow ourselves to live in the ambiguity. Going off track is not a sin. It is a knowledge opportunity.

How cool is that?! Beautiful, Tom!

Read Full Post »

I’ve asked Virginia York to take notes here of the debrief of the Everyday Deliberation exercise we are doing at UHD where people tell stories of a time when they had to make a difficult decision and deliberated personally. The participants work in triads. One person tells their story, another person is the questioner who listens carefully and asks questions to help the storyteller reveal the reason why the decision was difficult and the third person serves as the observer.

Here’s Virginia’s notes of the debrief of this exercise…

Hi—here goes:

Stories of every day deliberation dealt with divorce, real estate purchases, elderly parents, illness, etc.

What made this decision difficult:

  • Commitment
  • fear
  • responsibility
  • there were bad things on both sides
  • values were in tension
  • I had to consider other people
  • goals can be uncertain

What values were in conflict:

  • reason vs emotion was an example of tension
  • other examples were to lay out potential outcomes
  • more reasoned risks
  • values can be in conflict,
  • long range goals and short term needs,
  • my values may not be the same as others,
  • what I want to do vs what I should do,
  • duty vs pleasure,
  • are all of the options being explored?
  • are there too many options,
  • uncomfortable

What images of deliberation come to mind?

  • Disagreement
  • Compromise
  • Controlled passion
  • Never actually seen deliberation happen because there is always an element of persuasion. Perhaps I’ve spent too much time at the capitol.
  • Deliberation always brings up the term “calm”.
  • Recently was part of a jury where we deliberated very well. We listened to the three dissenters and came to a common ground and both parties were happy with our final decision.
  • Togas! The Greek Columns. The Socratic approach of knowledge for its own sake where the answer emerges.
  • Barbara Jordan was the most deliberate person – slow, calm, thoughtful
  • Trying to reach a destination – there is a commitment to reach that destination through the dialogue process where everyone is engaged

Now on to a forum on Too Many Children Left Behind: How Can We Close the Achievement Gap?

Read Full Post »

I am writing this from the University of Houston Downtown’s Center for Public Deliberation training for new moderators. For the past two months, I have been working with Windy Lawrence and Tom Workman, the co-directors of this new endeavor. We are finally doing our first training session for moderators in Houston. We have 25 participants with a significant representation from the Houston Public Library. We are also joined by a representative from the Clinton and Bush Presidential Libraries.

We just introduced the participants to the cast of characters involved in public deliberation and the work we will be doing with Texas Forums and UHD Center for Public Deliberation. We also introduced them to the key areas that the partners will work on independently and in collaboration.

Texas Forums and the University of Houston Downtown will collaborate and work on the following key areas:

  • Research and Development
  • Training and Professional Development
  • Support Local Initiatives by Building Capacity
  • Develop and Support Statewide Issues
  • Communication and Public Information

We invited the participants asked questions about the partners, but they immediately jumped into offering ideas about who else should be involved. Very exciting energy!!!!

Can’t wait to post more, but it’s time for me to lead my session on Everyday Deliberation.

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »