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We’re counting down to The National Coalition for Dialogue and Deliberation Conference here in Austin October 3-5, 2008 at the Renaissance Hotel (Arboretum) with half-day and full-day pre-conference sessions scheduled for October 2.

This conference is packed full of opportunities to learn, listen, laugh and lunch. The conference will feature a free Conversation Cafe, a meeting of Geeks Who Dialogue, a Poetry Slam, a panel of leading Conservatives who have embraced dialogue, youth-led events, and an original musical composition created during the conference! Here are some of the featured speakers:

Here’s a sampling of the workshops being offered:

  • How Can We Combat Climate Change with Dialogue and Participation? An International Perspective
  • How Can WE Revitalize Democracy with D&D?
  • What Moves You? Exploring the Spiritual and Moral Roots of Our Dialogue Practice
  • Exploring How our Work in D&D Contributes to Social Change
  • Embedding D&D into Government Systems
  • Fireside Chat on Embedding Citizen’s Voices in Our Governing Systems
  • Coming to the Table: Addressing Racial Reconciliation in America
  • The Power of Poetry to Facilitate Change

If you can’t make the full conference, here are a few options:

  • Attend a pre-conference on Thursday, October 2 for only $95 (full day) or $50 (half day). See pre-conference schedule here.
  • Attend the free Conversation Cafe also on Thursday October 2 in the evening. Come at 6:15 to learn how to facilitate a conversation or come at 7:30 to participate.
  • Register for just one day for the rate of $150.

Special offer for students!!!!
If you are a student or know a student who should attend, don’t let the conference fee get in the way. Bluebonnet Hills is offering $300 scholarships for student registration rate to help you  attend. That means the student only pays $25! If you are a student and want to participate in this conference that will have workshops led by the Rockrose Institute’s Youth Dialogue Project, complete this application online.

A very active local planning team led by Diane Miller has been working for almost a year to
make sure that this is the best NCDD conference ever and put Austin on
the D&D map.

Still not sure if this conference is for you? Ask yourself these questions about who you are to find out…

  • If you are an artist, an activist, a trainer, teacher, scholar, student, philosopher, community change agent, political leader, policy-maker, librarian, or just someone who believes that the world works best when we sit down and engage in meaningful dialogue, then you won’t want to miss this opportunity.
  • If you are convinced that there are better ways for us to work on community problems than the traditional debate, vote, mandate, legislate then this conference is for you.
  • If you envision a future in which all people-regardless of income, position, background
    or education-engage in lively, thoughtful, and
    challenging discussions about what matters to them, then you will find kindred spirits at this conference.
  • If you would like to meet 350-400 people from around the world who are working on issues like racism, Jewish-Palestinian dialogues, political polarization, gentrification and climate change, they’ll be here in Austin in October.

If any of those descriptions sound like you, then register here!

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For the upcoming NCDD Conference in Austin October 3-5, I’m doing two workshops – one on libraries and extension using dialogue, and one on the Missouri River Ecosystem Restoration Project. I am hosting a tech meeting, conducting a pre-conference with four colleagues, running a hospitality suite, sponsoring a poetry slam, videotaping events, blogging on site, and planning two tables for the marketplace. Like all of the dedicated volunteers on the Central Texas planning team, I have a crazy, crazy amount of work to do.

So how am I spending my time?

Contemplating goodie bag stuffing, of course! (Hey, it’s labor day weekend. This is about as much time off as I’ll get for the next three months.)

I’m stealing from the LBJ Library staff idea to have jelly beans at the LBJ 100 Celebration last Wednesday. (President Johnson’s gift to the Head Start kids he visited at Stonewall.)

So below are a couple of options. I need some advice. Which way to go??

Option 1

Option 1

This option is very cute, but also time consuming – punching the cards and cutting and tying the raffia. It also has the added expense of the blue raffia.

Option 2

Option 2

This option is in a resealable bag which is nice since people probably won’t eat 2 oz. of jelly beans at once. It’s also easier and lies flat in the bag.

I’m also looking for cheap options for jelly beans. I’ll need about 50 lbs. of jelly beans!

OK, now back to serious work – finishing uploading my photos from the LBJ 100 Celebration.

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One of the objectives of the Central Texas D&D Summit held on April 19 at the LBJ Library was to:

a) Identify specific local D&D efforts that could be used as examples of the National Coalition for Dialogue and Deliberation’s (NCDD) ‘Seven Challenges Facing the D&D Community’;
b) Members of the NCDD_CenTX team (to be determined) will then document these examples (according to a format yet to be determined) for presentation at the conference.

While we made great headway toward our other objectives to build a Central Texas Network, we didn’t specifically tie our practices and learning back to the seven challenges. NCDD and Civic Evolution have been hosting an online dialogue about these seven challenges, but that doesn’t satisfy our objective to draw on the expertise of the Central Texas region.

If you are a Central Texas D&D practitioner or scholar and have struggled with these issues, please let us know what you are learning and how we can pool our resources to tackle these challenges.

Here are the challenges:

Bringing D&D skills and perspectives into mainstream society and institutions

Challenge A: Embedding D&D in Systems

Embedding D&D in systems (governance, schools, organizations, etc.) – as opposed to just putting our energy into isolated D&D events and programs.

Challenge B: Framing this Work in an Accessible Way

Articulating the importance of this work to those beyond our immediate community (making D&D compelling to people of all income levels, education levels, and political perspectives, etc.) – and helping equip members of the D&D community to talk about this work in an accessible, effective way.

Challenge C: Proving This Stuff Works

Proving to power-holders (public officials, funders, CEOs) that D&D really does work, and creating/propagating quality evaluation tools for practitioners to use that can feed into research. In the private sector, demonstrating how D&D contributes to the bottom line.

Challenge D: D&D to Action and Policy Change

Strengthening the link between D&D and community action and policy change.

Strengthening the D&D community

Challenge E: Walking Our Talk

Addressing issues of oppression and bias within the D&D community.

Challenge F: Regional D&D Networks

Fostering the development of regional D&D networks and gatherings.

Challenge G: International Connections

Finding ways to readily learn from what D&D innovators outside of the U.S. are doing.

So what have we learned about these important challenges?

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The participants in the small groups at the Central Texas D&D Summit had almost forty-five minutes to share the lessons and insights they have gained during the course of their dialogue and deliberation work.

Steven Fearing set up the groups with the following comments.

  • This meeting is not a workshop on dialogue and deliberation techniques. Instead it is an opportunity for us to get to know each other and to document what we have done and learned. More importantly, we want to build relationships and find out how we can work together in the future.
  • You will be working in small groups at five tables
  • Each table has a facilitator
  • You have a template prepared by Sunni where you can capture in words and pictures from your group’s dialogue.
  • You will have 45 minutes for this portion and should feel free to take breaks as needed
  • Goal for our time in these small groups is to share and capture key learning, insights, and challenges related to dialogue and deliberation in community work.
  • After 45 minutes, we will come together to capture common themes – such as assets and resources, challenges and opportunities. Sunni will help us integrate all of the ideas we discuss in our groups and chart on our templates into a graphic narrative.

Each group had a beautiful graphic map drawn by Sunni Brown where they could capture their insights. The groups were lightly facilitated by Rod Reyna, Susan Schultz, Tobin Quereau, and Mary Thompson. The facilitators charged the participants:

  • Think of a time when you brought people together to work on an issue or community problem. What lessons have you learned about using dialogue and deliberation for helping people work together? These may be lessons you learned from your successes or things you learned that you would do differently.
  • Think also about challenges you have faced and what you would like to do better, and
  • What else do you need to be more effective in using dialogue and deliberation in your work with communities?

Here are the results of their small group dialogue:

Yellow Group

yellow group

Susan Schultz, Neil Meili, Stephanie Nestlerode, Steve Swanson, Lindsay LeBlanc

Blue Group

blue

Mary Thompson, Ed Sharpe, Margaret Valenti, Robyn Emerson, Oliver Markley, Patricia Wilson

Red Group

red

Tobin Quereau, Ann Brudno, Jenny Meigs, Tom Moran, Landon Shultz, Mike Aaron, Leilani Rose

Green Group

green

Rod Reyna, Sherry Lowry, Robena Jackson, Cathey Capers, Juli Fellows, Steven Fearing

As the participants described their templates, Sunni captured their themes:

reflections

Prior to the reporting out and reflection, Erin Kreeger and Taylor Willingham had a charge for the group:

As you listen to the groups’ posting their templates, listen for assets and opportunities. Think about the opportunities that you identified in this room that will help you in your work. Perhaps you identified asset or opportunities that involve:

  • Connecting with someone else in this room or someone who needs to be part of this community
  • Participation in an event or activity
  • Contributing your expertise or resources

Make note of the ideas as they come to you. After every group describes their template we will have time for collective reflection that Sunni will capture for us in graphic form.

Here are some of the opportunities the group identified to connect:

connect

In keeping with our spirit of reflection and “continuous improvement” (that term is here for Charles’ benefit!) Charles Knickerbocker led us in a period of reflection on the meeting. He asked them what worked and what did we need more of. Here’s what the group had to say:

what worked

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[Cross posted]

The recent Public Library Association Conference featured a session titled, “The Dangerous Ideas”. The idea behind the session was to stimulate a conversation about adaptation and change by posing the question, “What if…?”

The presenters began by introducing Ten Dangerous Ideas:

1. What if we stopped cataloging?
2. What if we participated fully with the FBI in all criminal investigations that involved the use of library resources?
3. What if librarians individually and as a profession promoted, used and helped to develop Wikipedia?
4. What if we accepted open source software as a way of being more in control of the customer experience?
5. What if we embraced our iner geek and created immersive games that prompted cults of library junkies?
6. What if we required all library staff to have expertise using technology?
7. What if mistakes were expected and embraced and all librarians became mistake masters?
8. What if we didn’t make decisions based on fear or scarcity?
9. What if we stopped being passive/aggressive?
10. What if we didn’t make our customers work so hard?

I did not attend this session, but have been following the aftermath on the Transforming Texas Libraries Blog and the Web Junction Blog. Some of the provocative questions raised and documented on the Web Junction Blog are:

What if librarians would promote and participate in the development of Wikipedia?
What if we made decisions that are not based on scarcity?
What if libraries large and small invest together to adopt open source solutions?
What if teens in the library were our partners instead of our problem?
What if we learned to advertise the allure of libraries as successfully as soft drinks and junk food?

This discussion is continuing on “whatiflibs” wiki posted on wetpaint, a very easy to use wiki.

The question, “What if?” calls upon us to use our imagination and to push our thinking into uncomfortable territory.

Recognizing this, the presenters had follow-up questions for the workshop participants:

  • Why does this thought make me uncomfortable?
  • What are the opportunities in this idea?
  • What actions can be taken to pursue the opportunities?

I teach Change Management and Civic Entrepreneurship to graduate library students. I thrive on uncomfortable thoughts because that is where opportunities hide. Too many people retreat when confronted with uncomfortable thoughts. We don’t like ambiguity. We may feel threatened. We may feel insecure about what change will demand from us. But all of these are just the flip side of opportunity.

I’m sorry I missed this workshop. I would love to see this thinking brought into the National Coalition for Dialogue and Deliberation Conference taking place in Austin, TX October 3-5, 2008. The conversation starter could be a “What if…” related to the D&D community or democracy itself and how D&D impacts democracy.

How about it D&D-ers? Are we ready for some Dangerous Ideas?

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