Support the National Dialogue Network

I first learned of the fledging aspirations of the National Dialogue Network (NDN) last year at the National Coalition for Dialogue & Deliberation‘s Seattle Conference.  NDN’s ambitious goal:  to coordinate collaborative local conversations into mindful national dialogue.

After winning NCDD’s Catalyst Award for civic infrastructure, it has gone on to put its ideas into action.

NDN logo

Now, the National Dialogue Network wants you!!  

Their inaugural topic is “Poverty & Wealth in America” and the process couldn’t be easier. You can:

Either way, you’ll help us all learn more about what it takes to create a civic infrastructure that serves the needs of each and all of us.

What the National Dialogue Networks says about themselves:

The NDN coordinates distinct individual and community conversations giving everyone a “sense of place” and voice within the larger national dialogue. NDN’s dedicated volunteer’s seek to revitalize and promote civic infrastructures within communities where all who choose to participate will impact the national conversation by: 

  • Focusing intently on an issue over time with others; 
  • Listening to the opinions and ideas being discussed in your community and across the United States; and 
  • Speaking up about your own opinions and ideas in conversations with your family, friends & community.  
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Journalism That Matters: The Diversity Principle

Post #5 of my series on journalism is now up.

Navigating Through Uncertainty: The Diversity Principle

Innovation demands diversity, using our differences creatively.

Image by Steven Wright, www.wrightmarks.com
Image by Steven Wright, www.wrightmarks.com

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Read the other posts in this series:

 

 

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Journalism That Matters: The Possibility Principle

This next post in my journalism series,

Journalism for Navigating Uncertainty: The Possibility Principle

is getting to the heart of where my work in system change and my work with journalism really overlaps!

Check it out.

From JTM’s Pacific Northwest 2010 Conference Report, by Steven Wright

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Journalism That Matters: What’s Possible Now?

After years of working with journalists through Journalism That Matters, a nonprofit that I co-founded with three career journalists, I’m finally offering my perspective on what’s possible in the emerging news and information ecosystem.

Check it out:

What do we need from journalism?

Image by Steven Wright, http://wrightmarks.com
Image by Steven Wright, http://wrightmarks.com

 

 

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A Radio Interview on The Heart of it ALL

Blue Spinner Greyscale Feathered flippedOn May 24, 2013, I joined radio hosts Sheri Herndon and Erik Lawyer on their weekly talk show, One Becoming One: The Heart of it ALL.

The focus of the hour long broadcast was Navigating Through Chaos and Telling a New Story. We had a fine time talking about how best to work with upheaval and chaos. I talked a bit about the upcoming workshop I’m doing, Engaging Possibilities: Appreciative Inquiry and the Art of Radical Appreciation, on July 8-10 near Jerusalem, Israel. And we talked about journalism in changing times.

For more, listen to the conversation!

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Designing for Community: Expect the Unexpected

Part V

Image by David Kessler, www.davidkessler.biz
Image by David Kessler, www.davidkessler.biz

Take a co-creative stand so that disruptions become a source of engagement and learning.

At a recent event that I attended, the focus was on community.  The participants were from government, communities, and organizations with a socially oriented mission, both for profit and nonprofit.  While mostly white, the 150 people there were sufficiently diverse in age, race, geography, and gender to make the setting spicy.

And then there was the design. Two days of talks, interspersed with small group conversations about the talks.  The last day was in Open Space. Two conditions made for a rocky experience.  The first: all but one of the in-person speakers were older white men.  The second: with one exception, the speakers all lectured.  While well intentioned, and unquestionably from a respectful place, the talks had a quality of bringing knowledge down from on high.  The exception was a couple who shared their work and brought with them the questions they were striving to answer as part of their offering.

As the second morning started with yet another presenter, someone stood to voice his frustration.  He beat me to it by the random selection of the holder of the microphone.  The participant spoke clearly and respectfully.  He made a request that we hear from a greater diversity of people.  The conference hosts listened.  They took in challenging feedback, redesigned over a break, and invited people to self-organize around topics of interest.

No matter how well prepared you think you are, stuff happens.  Our brilliant design don’t always work as envisioned.  That’s when grace under pressure helps.

Design Suggestion

Be prepared to be surprised.  Just as practicing scales prepares the way for great jazz, knowing the rhythm and likely effects of the activities you choose equips you to meet the needs of a group in the moment.  And like jazz, working with partners when hosting a large group can enrich the experience.  Multiple sets of eyes provide more insight into a situation, along with putting a greater range of experiences and options at your finger tips.

Years ago, working with a team of four, I was virtually thrown out of a gathering by the participants of a conference that I had spent months organizing.  As I put it at the time, I was standing still in the fire and I got burnt.  Fortunately for the attendees, there were four of us holding the space.  My partners could see what was happening and made sure the needs of the group were met.

As for me, it sent me on a learning journey that led to increased capacity to listen and adapt.  I became far less dogmatic in my approach to my work with groups.  And it sure makes me compassionate when other designers and hosts experience the unexpected!

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Designing for Community: Make Participant Experience Visible

Part IV

Image by David Kessler, www.davidkessler.biz
Image by David Kessler, www.davidkessler.biz

Design activities in which we meet kindred spirits, discover each other’s gifts, and learn as much as possible about what works.

I was so aware of the invisibility of the talent and experience in the room at several conferences that I’ve attended of late!  Make use of those with stories to tell.   The potential for cross-fertilization of ideas and practices is magnified when designs bring forth the richness of experience present in a group.  And assume these gems will sparkle even brighter when lit by ideas contributed by luminaries.

Benefits of inviting participants to share their experiences: it sparks ideas, encourages new connections, and identifies possible partners. It also informs new theory to be articulated out of practice.

Design Suggestions

The simplest means I know to optimize sharing is to use Open Space Technology, inviting people to self-organize around what matters to them. When the topic is abstract, like the “future of journalism” or “connecting for community” and the group isn’t a formal organization, I’ve found a few activities can provide some useful context about who’s coming and the gifts they bring before opening the space.

Sending a briefing book with bios before a gathering gives people a sense of who’s coming.  With online registration tools, it’s easy to ask registrants for a bio or to answer questions about why they’re coming or gifts that they’re bringing.  The briefing book makes great travel reading.

An effective activity I’ll do early in a gathering is a “trade fair”, in which people are invited to host a table to share their work.  It’s a fast way to discover something about what’s happening in the field. I usually set the stage in advance, asking during registration if they want to host a table.  They can bring materials, paper or electronic, to dress their space. I find this minimal structure supports self-organizing that makes visible the experiences in the room.  Participants get to see a range of examples in a fun, informal and intimate format.

Such activities help participants find connections and partners.  It can be inspiring to see what others have accomplished and can spark ideas to apply to their own work. This sort of informal sharing encourages a culture of mutual support, in which we can all benefit.

No matter what your design, it is always wise to expect the unexpected.  That is the topic of the last post of the series.

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Designing for Community: Include Theory and Practice in Conference Designs

Image by David Kessler, www.davidkessler.biz
Image by David Kessler, www.davidkessler.biz

Part III

Theory and practice amplify each other’s value

Ideas stimulate new thinking.  They interrupt habitual assumptions.  Examples ground us in real life.  They give ideas form.  If we focus just on ideas, we run the risk of getting lost in abstractions.  If we just look at practical examples, we could miss seeing larger patterns that encourage innovation and the adoption of great work.

As someone who thrives on the abstract, I’ve come to appreciate that stories of what’s working bring ideas to life.  Through stories, practice informs theory.

Often, the role of luminaries is to bring new thinking — theory — to gatherings.  A few ideas can go a long ways towards influencing the work of the people attending.  Theories provide frameworks and language that can make successful practices easier to grasp.

What is less often present in gatherings is the opportunity to learn about the good work attendees are doing.  Great designs for gatherings make the most out of the gifts brought by everyone who comes.  Every group contains a range of experiences.  Some are newcomers seeking to learn about what already exists.  Others are veterans, with a myriad of stories that illuminate years of learning.  Some are theorists, pattern seekers wanting to make visible essentials of what works.  And there are pragmatists, who don’t care why something works.  They’re just focused on making good things happen. While there’s often a tension between theorists and practitioners, I find that each is enriched by the presence of the other.

Design Suggestion

Include a variety of activities.  Spend some time introducing new ideas.  Spend some time showing off work done by people who are present.  And use the majority of the time for people to interact.

If having luminaries engage with the whole group is a useful way to introduce new ideas and theories, inviting people in the room to share their work is a great way to learn through successful examples. Interactions are the glue, helping us to clarify our thoughts, connect with others, and more deeply integrate the experience.

Part II dealt with good ways to engage luminaries with the group to bring the spice of new ideas.  Open Space is a clear winner for maximizing group interactions.  Ah, but that middle activity…when you’ve got dozens of examples of great work and not necessarily skilled storytellers, what designs optimize the sharing? Next week’s post is devoted to that subject…

 

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