Winter 2009 Newsletter

Greetings and welcome to C2D2’s first newsletter of 2009! You will find news of current activities in the dialogue and deliberation community, upcoming workshops and conferences, resources and other news. Many thanks to all contributors of this edition.

Just a reminder about our Newsletter Policy: We welcome stories about promising dialogue and deliberation (D&D) practices, research or articles discussing D&D, profiles of interesting D&D projects, profiles of D&D organizations or leaders, non-partisan or multi-partisan public events related to D&D, and D&D training opportunities or job opportunities.

If you would like to submit a short 1-2 paragraph item, or a longer feature story for our Spring 2009 newsletter, send us your submissions by February 28, 2009. Please include a 1-2 sentence summary statement along with a brief text with contact information and a web link.  Send your submission to Amy Lang at: c2d2newsletteratgmail [dot] com .


Job Opportunities


Social Signal Seeks Social Media Strategist

Social Signal, a Vancouver-based firm that helps companies and nonprofits use social media to engage their clients and communities, is hiring a Social Media Stragegist.  The successful candidate will be a a web-savvy, community-wise, project-managing whiz who will manage client engagements, create innovative online community strategies, and launch new social media projects. Visit for the complete job announcement and application portal.

Health Canada Hiring in January

The Policy, Planning and Analysis Group of Health Canada's Public Affairs, Consultation and Communications Branch (PACCB) will be holding an external hiring process in mid-January. The Group's responsibilities include developing policies, standards and tools to strengthen openness and transparency in departmental activities and decision-making processes, and provides strategic analysis of the stakeholder environment  in order to support proactive public involvement planning. Visit for the latest information on this job opportunity.


Organizational News


An Update on Ascentum’s Activities

The Public Health Agency of Canada is undertaking an online consultation with experts, key stakeholders and representatives of key populations to gather meaningful input on the development of a new policy framework for HIV testing and counselling. Robert Mariani will be leading the Ascentum team in this work.  Contact him at rmarianiatascentum [dot] ca for additional information.

The Change Foundation and the network of Ontario’s Local Health Integration Networks (LHIN, ) is holding a one-day interactive learning session on public engagement for LHIN CEOs, Chairs, Board members and engagement staff in the new year.  Mary Pat MacKinnon will be leading this session.  Contact her at mmackinnonatascentum [dot] ca for more information.

Mary Pat MacKinnon and Manon Abud are leading online public involvement work related to national consultations with stakeholders and citizens for the Mental Health Commission of Canada (MHCC).  MHCC’s mandate is to develop a mental health strategy for Canada. The first phase of this work will be dedicated to building a broad consensus for national goals for WHAT a transformed Canadian mental health system should look like.  Follow this work through the MHCC website at .

Joseph Peters continues work with the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) on the Public Health Agency Public Involvement Framework and Handbook. They are building a framework based on broad internal and external consultation with PHAC leadership and staff, international and provincial/territorial partners, public involvement experts, and public involvement practitioners from across federal government departments.   The Framework is unique not only because of its public health perspective, but also because of the commitment by PHAC leadership to support the development of standards and principles for quality public involvement.  The Framework will support and complement other PHAC initiatives, including the Strategic Risk Communications Framework, and the evolving Stakeholder Relationship Management Framework.  Contact either Joseph Peters at jpetersatascentum [dot] ca if you wish to know more. 

Joseph Peters and Manon Abud continue to work with the federal Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade on the department’s organisational change process  - The Transformation Agenda.  This work began with the development of a comprehensive employee engagement strategy and moved into implementation, with extensive in-person workshops, garden tea parties and other innovative engagement techniques. To learn more, contact either Joe at jpetersatascentum [dot] ca (jpetersatascentum [dot] ca )or Manon at mabudatascentum [dot] ca . 

Manon Abud worked with the New Zealand Bioethics Council to develop and run a National Issues Forum-style public deliberation, including 18 in-person sessions and a comprehensive online deliberation process. Report is available at: Contact Manon at mabudatascentum [dot] ca if you wish to know more.

Robert Mariani worked with Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada in the creation of a new branch within the department.  The project engaged employees in a series of dialogues to help shape the new organization’s vision, mission, values and business goals.  By involving employees in a meaningful way at the start of the transformation initiative, the organization gathered valuable input to help it make sustainable decisions.   Contact Robert at rmarianiatascentum [dot] ca if you wish to know more.

Mary Pat MacKinnon participated in a Council of Europe/OECD conference in Strasbourg, France, November 27-29, 2008, on involving citizens and communities in measuring and fostering well-being and progress. Her remarks included reference to the Atkinson Charitable Foundation’s Canadian Index of Wellbeing (CIW) and CPRN’s Quality of Life Indicators Project (QOLIP), and other Canadian examples including Vibrant Communities and Newfoundland and Labrador’s Community Accounts.  Check out the website at

Ascentum, in partnership with US-based Viewpoint Learning, undertook a research and public engagement initiative focused on the issue of healthcare in three states in the US. The project was geared around an online deliberative approach to engage citizens and obtain their informed input on the future of healthcare. It included a choicebook that explored four approaches for health care reform followed by online moderated small group dialogue forums.  Robert Mariani was responsible for the online consultation design and launch, analysis and reporting. You can reach him at rmarianiatascentum [dot] ca if you wish to know more. 

Joseph Peters and Manon Abud co-authored a research paper entitled “Public Involvement and E-Consultation:  A New Era of Democratic Governance in Canada”, for the Institute for Research on Public Policy. The paper will be published in early January.  Look for it on the IRPP website at .    

Dialogue Programs at Simon Fraser University’ Wosk Centre for Dialogue

BC's Climate Future: Adaptation and Resilience

Imagine BC collaborated up with another Simon Fraser University initiative called ACT (Adaptation to Climate Change Team) to convene a forum on International Climate Impacts and Responses and Implications for BC’s Future. Visit our website for the program and podcasts of the event:

Dr. Frances Westley of the Resilience Alliance and the University of Waterloo, joined Imagine BC policy delegates to present a compelling workshop called “Linking Social and Ecological Resilience to Strengthen the Environment”. The session included an introduction to social innovation, panarchy (adaptive cycles) and an exploration of the significance of storytelling and scenario-based planning to communicate innovation and for knowledge creation. The report from this workshop is found on the Imagine BC website.

C2D2 Board Member Jacquie Dale on her recent D and D activities:

CPRN - Making Newfoundland & Labrador a Province of Choice for Young People

Approximately 140 young people attended a provincial Youth Summit in St. John's, NL, November 14-15, 2008, to identify common values and actions to make Newfoundland and Labrador their province of choice to live in and work.  CPRN organized the Summit for the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador.  The input of young participants will feed into the government's Youth Retention and Attraction Strategy.

The Synthesis Report was the basis for the in-depth discussion at the Summit. en

To watch the video, Newfoundland and Labrador, Province of Choice click here

Department of Fisheries and Oceans, Pacific Region: 5th Annual Community Dialogues

Fisheries and Oceans Canada, Pacific Region has held dialogues in local communities throughout British Columbia as part of the fifth annual Fall Community Dialogues.  The dialogues provide information and an opportunity for First Nations, multi-interest groups and community participants to have a facilitated discussion on the designated topics. The Department will consider information gathered at the dialogues in decision-making. The dialogues also aim to help build collaborative relationships with and between First Nations and community-based partners.

Announcements, Resources and Initiatives


The Climate Decisions Website

The Climate Decisions Website is intended to help foster wise decision-making about climate change adaptation, with a focus on natural resource contexts. The website explains many of the key themes in the area of climate change adaptation as well as case studies that explore the challenges decision makers may face when trying to cope with and adapt to climate change.

The site would be of interest to resource managers, stakeholders, researchers, and anyone interested in learning more about global climate change. The interdisciplinary research team that created the site is led by Dr. Tim McDaniels and Dr. Hadi Dowlatabadi at the University of British Columbia (UBC). The research conducted by this team is part of the UBC component of the Climate Decision Making Center at Carnegie Mellon University, which is funded by the U.S. National Science Foundation (NSF).

The website explains many of the key themes in the area of climate change adaptation including climate forecasts, the process of downscaling climate data, and concepts such as irreducible uncertainty. Also included are an overview of structured decision making and a series of cases studies. The cases explore the challenges decision makers may face when trying to cope with and adapt to climate change. The team will present addition cases over time and will continue to analyze these cases for novel insights and common themes. We invite you to visit the Climate Decisions Website at the link provided below.

Leadership Research Network

We are pleased to announce the creation of the “Leadership Research Network (LRN)” within the Management Research Network. It will provide a worldwide, online community for research in all areas of leadership studies, following the model of other subject matter networks within SSRN. We expect LRN to become a comprehensive online resource for research in leadership studies, providing scholars with access to current work in their field and facilitating research and scholarship. For resources and more information contact the Harvard University Organizational Behaviour Unit: Nitin Nohria nnohriaathbs [dot] edu and Rakesh Khurana rkhuranaathbs [dot] edu

AmericaSpeaks' Strengthening Democracy Agenda

Important new US initiative: A vibrant new agenda to strengthen America's democracy is being advanced to the incoming Administration.  Carolyn Lukensmeyer, President, AmericaSpeaks, Martha McCoy President, Everyday Democracy and Miles Rapoport, President, Demos: A Network for Ideas are asking individuals and organizations to read and endorse the Agenda.

The Agenda includes an exciting set of recommendations, including a White House Office of Civic Engagement, a call for regular national discussions, and a unique set of policy reforms to increase participation in public life.  Organizers believe the Agenda will build on the incredible participation during the fall election season in the US by providing a real voice for every American in their governance process. They anticipate that these recommendations will transform the relationship between citizens and their government.  We suggest that the C2D2 community join this important effort and endorse the Agenda.

Cities of Migration

The Maytree Foundation known for their work on diversity, immigration issues and integration is launching a new initiative: Cities of Migration. This project will profile good ideas in integration. Whether it is faith based financing in Chicago, speed mentoring in Montreal or kids playing kickball in Munich, these innovative approaches to integration are changing the way urban centres help newcomers not only adapt, but also succeed. Each story includes contact information, a searchable e-library with resources for further reading and city-level information to help users adapt these practices locally, wherever you live and work.

Officially launching in March 2009, the Cities of Migrationinitiative will begin by hosting a series of open monthly seminars on innovation in integration. These easy to use online learning events will be led by experienced practitioners from across the integration field and provide an opportunity to connect interested parties from around the world. Other features to look forward to include Conversations in Integration an open forum for discussion, opinion, and information exchange, and a multilingual website (German and French)

Organizational Development Canada

ODCanda has a new website!! Same address: .Aside from looking better and being easier to navigate, the site has some new features reflecting our commitment to the OD and change community: The Resources page: with links to associations, valuable articles, tools, and bibliographies. We need more material on this page. Please send us anything you think is valuable, and send your requests as well. The Job Board: Nothing here yet, but if you know of a job please let us know and we'll post it. The Events page: If you know of an event that the OD and change community would like to hear about, tell us and we'll post it. Send any contributions or requests to the usual email: infoatodcanada [dot] org .

New Social Inquiry Journal

New Social Inquiry is a brand new academic journal that will be publishing social research essays and relative works that are accessible to a wide audience, engaging and relevant for non-specialists, yet sophisticated and complex enough to push scholarship forward. Their first publication will focus on public dialogue. Here's an excerpt from the guidelines for submission: Is there such a thing as public dialogue, now or in the past? If so, who participates, who leads, and what forms does it take? If not, how can it realistically be realized? What are the main challenges to establishing/maintaining public dialogue? What are good examples of public dialogue working in the world today?What is/are the relationship(s) between public dialogue(s) and social inquiry(ies)? Shotgun essays should be no longer than 1000 words. For more information, check out:

International, Interdisciplinary Dialogue

Democracy Lab brings together Canadian and U.S. university students to dialogue and deliberate on the U.S. presidential elections. Democracy Lab is an online course that brings together university students in collaborative dialogue and deliberation about current issues.  Hosted at Regis University in Denver, Colorado, Democracy Lab is a ten-week online module that is integrated into an existing course as an innovative teaching strategy.  By participating in Democracy Lab, students gain a functional knowledge of dialogue skills, have the opportunity to practice those skills with the guidance of a trained facilitator, connect with their peers within different educational studies, and become teachers themselves as they share personal experiences and learn from one another. 

Commenting on his participation in the online course, one Canadian student stated, “Democracy Lab helped me to be able to express ideas thoughtfully and respectfully, and to listen and appreciate other opinions from people I've never met or even seen.” 

For more information on upcoming Democracy Lab courses, please contact Malia Crouse, Democracy Lab Coordinator at mcrouseatregis [dot] edu (mailto:mcrouseatregis [dot] edu )or 303-248-6686.  For general course information visit .

Public Involvement Network News

The Public Involvement Network is a wonderful resource and has several articles and resources that the D and D community in Canada will learn from. One article by Paul Leister outline the lessons from Portland, Oregon explore the hopes and challenges of democratic governance. It is a fascinating exploration of public involvement. Read about it here:

Conferences and Workshops


C2D2 Vancouver Networking Event

The Canadian Commnity for Dialogue and Deliberation (C2D2) will be holding a networking event for members in the Vancouver area. Join Canada's World and SFU Centre for Dialogue Fellow Shauna Sylvester at 7:30 am January 16th at Waves Coffee Shop at West Hastings and Richards streets, Vancouver. All are welcome.


Simon Fraser University Dialogue Programs

Diploma in Dialogue and Negotiation

April 6-9, June 8-11, October 14-17, 2009

Learn to design a framework and process for collaborative decision-making from internationally respected instructors. Interactive and experiential, this cohort-based program is for ideal for professionals who are charged with leading change through negotiating agreements, developing policies and programs, and managing conflict. Led by experienced and internationally respected faculty, this nine-month program will help professionals from diverse sectors learn to design and implement agreement seeking processes. Lead Faculty: Michelle LeBaron and Craig Darling

Application deadline: February 15, 2009. Application details are available at:

Appreciative Inquiry: A Positive Process for Transformational Change in Social Systems

January 22–23, 2009 9 am – 4 pm

$550/$475 for non-profits/students

Is it possible to transform organizations and other social systems without crisis? Can leaders rapidly create new, more positive and effective organizational cultures and social systems? The evidence is clear that Appreciative Inquiry is the only planned change technology that has been able to do that in a variety of settings. In this highly interactive two day workshop you will be introduced to the theory and method of appreciative inquiry, particularly as used by change agents trying to create change in organizations and other human systems. During the workshop you will engage in an appreciative inquiry with opportunities to practice all phases of the process. Faculty: Dr. Gervase Bushe, SFU’s School of Business:.

To register online:

For more information and a printable registration form, please download our flyer:

2009 Parliament of the World's Religions December 3-9, 2009 Melbourne, Australia

The Council for a Parliament of the World's Religions invites all people of faith, spirit and goodwill to encounter the vast and rich diversity of the world's religious and spiritual traditions, and to take part in over 500 events including keynote addresses, seminars, conferences, dialogues, performances, concerts and exhibitions. The 2009 Parliament will bring together more than 8,000 people from across the world, including renowned spiritual, religious and political leaders. For more information about registration and opportunities to volunteer:

Wild Rose sponsored Certificate Training

The next Certificate Training Program offered by the Wild Rose Chapter will be held in Calgary from January 19-23, 2009:

-Planning for Effective Public Participation (Pre-requisite for the other two courses) - January 19-20

-Communications for Effective Public Participation - January 21

-Techniques for Effective Public Participation - January 22-23

For more information contact Wild Rose Training Director, Ruth Klinkhammer at r [dot] klinkhammeratucalgary [dot] ca (mailto:r [dot] klinkhammeratucalgary [dot] ca )or visit the Wild Rose website at

Collaborative Community Initiatives Speaker Series

This series was created to promote dialogue and knowledge exchange on current issues related to communities and place-based policies.  Start Well, Stay Well is part of this series and provides an opportunity to deepen understanding and to reflect on effective community development approaches. "Start Well, Stay Well: How early interventions set a course for lifelong health and pro-social citizenship" Drawing on the expertise of world renowned leaders in early child development and child offending, this session aims to explore the life course trajectory and evidence bases supporting: 1) root causes of health/ill health and 2) risk factors associated with pro-social/early offending behaviour. Join us to discuss proven and promising interventions and explore opportunities to better address common problems through collaboration. Wednesday, January 28, 2008 9:00 am - 11:30 am

Ottawa Marriott Hotel, Ballroom North, 100 Kent Street, Ottawa (ON)

Free of Charge. Register by clicking on the following link

OD Canada

ODCanada is sponsoring a “The Teams and Change Leadership” program with Dr. Marilyn Laiken coming up, on January 16 and 17: Register now through the website:

IAP2  & Dialogue Partners Training Opportunity

The Canadian Trainers Collective is pleased to offer the IAP2 Certificate Training program in various locations across Canada in 2009.  Our first training for 2009 will be held in Vancouver, B.C.

IAP2 - Planning for Effective Public Participation March 2nd & 3rd, 2009

IAP2 - Effective Communication for Public Participation    March 4th, 2009

IAP2 - Techniques for Effective Public Participation March 5th & 6th, 2009

For more information please visit the IAP2 website at and follow the links, OR, contact the Canadian Trainers Collective at cdntrainerscollectiveatshaw [dot] ca .

We Media and Ashoka’s Changemakers:  The power to tell the story

Join We Media and Ashoka’s Changemakers in the search to find the best new ideas for inspiring a better world through media and technology. We are looking for business and non-profit venture ideas and will award $50,000 in seed funding to the innovators who can bring the best ideas to life. Submit your entries by January 21, 2009 6:00 pm EST (21:00 GMT)

The Network for Peace Conference

The Network for Peace through Dialogue is proud to invite you to our 2009 Conference, "Dialogue In/As Action," which will be held in New York City on June 12 and 13, 2009. The conference will focus on the rich intersections of the methods, processes, and actions of dialogue that lead to change, and is open to community groups, researchers, teachers, youth, and others. Proposals will be accepted until January 8, 2009. Open registration for the Conference will begin on March 1, 2009. Information about the conference can be found at

Facilitating Wise Action: Engaging Groups in Meaningful Conversations around Complex Issues

This is a unique in-house learning intensive on how to facilitate conversational methods in communities and organizations for more cooperative and sustainable results. The program begins with a brief look at the philosophy and values underlying a more co-creative engagement approach in multi-stakeholder situations, and then focuses on the 'how-to' s of various methods, including when and how to apply the approaches for better outcomes. The Wise Action program combines theory and practice around proven participatory methods used around the world (e.g., World Café, Open Space, Dialogue, Appreciative Inquiry, Deliberative Dialogue, etc.) for breakthrough thinking, decision-making and collaborative action. Registration Information: January 18-21, 2009 at Rivendell Retreat Centre on Bowen Island, BC, Canada. Starts Sunday at 4 pm; ends Wednesday at 1:30 pm. For more information, visit Masterful Facilitation Institute at Contact: Myriam Laberge: 604-943-9133, or email: myriamatmyriamlaberge [dot] ca .

The Confident Facilitator: Essential Skills for Guiding Groups

Great Meetings = Great Process + Great Outcomes + Great Interactions!  As a confident, competent, and capable facilitator, you will be able to use your skills and knowledge to achieve effective results in guiding and enabling groups to move towards their goals and find their own answers. You will know how to create participative environments, and use a variety of approaches to help groups achieve their objectives and desired outcomes. You will be able to honour and recognize diversity, support groups to higher performance and creativity, leverage different learning styles, and minimize tension and conflict. Registration: March 9-11, 2009 at the Morris J. Wosk Centre for Dialogue, Simon Fraser University.   For more information, visit Masterful Facilitation Institute at or call Myriam Laberge:604-943-9133, or email: myriamatmyriamlaberge [dot] ca .

E-Democracy.Org  Online Engagement Seminar

Get in touch with Steve Cleft if you'd like to virtually attend the E-Democracy.Org citizen media and online engagement seminar via the Internet/teleconference. The date is to be determined early in 2009. Visit .

Global civil society to meet in Montréal in 2009, 2010 and 2011

CIVICUS: World Alliance for Citizenship Participation, in partnership with the Institut du Nouveau Monde will be organising a series of major international civil society gatherings, the CIVICUS World Assembly, from 2009 to 2011 in Montréal. One thousand delegates from over 100 countries will meet for this unique four-day forum, to build bridges between NGOs, business, governments and intergovernmental organizations, trade unions, philanthropists, and religious associations. The event stimulates dialogue and favours the search for solutions to some of the world’s current problems. Never has the need for multi-stakeholder engagement been more necessary in order to debate the urgent crises facing the world today. The World Assembly will be preceded by a two-day youth event – the CIVICUS Youth Assembly – which allows 300 young people from all over the world to meet and prepare for their attendance at the World Assembly.  The first event will take place from August 28 to 31, 2009, at the Palais des congrès, in Montréal. For more information on the CIVICUS World Assembly, Youth Assembly and CIVICUS, please visit and .

Featured Articles


Salmon Genomics: a deliberative public engagement
Submitted by Holly Longstaff and Alexis Paton on behalf of the F2F team at the UBC Centre for Applied Ethics

In November 2008, twenty-six randomly recruited citizens of British Columbia gathered together to deliberate about their hopes and concerns for sequencing the salmon genome. One of the most significant findings to emerge from our preliminary analysis was that deliberations during the event did not become polarized despite the controversial nature of salmon related topics to British Columbians. Methods and forthcoming papers associated with this event would likely be of interest to others who wish to critique our approach or conduct similar events in the future.

The salmon genomics deliberative public engagement brought a diverse collection of twenty-six British Columbians together to The Morris J. Wosk Centre for Dialogue in Vancouver, BC over two non-sequential weekends. The purpose of the event was to provide citizens with the opportunity to deliberate about their hopes and concerns for sequencing the salmon genome. The engagement was organized by an interdisciplinary team of scholars led by Dr Mike Burgess and Dr Kieran O'Doherty at The W. Maurice Young Centre for Applied Ethics at the University of British Columbia (UBC).

Each event participant received a background booklet that outlined the potential implications of sequencing the salmon genome. They also completed a pre-post online survey, had access to a website that included background information, and participated in a post-event telephone interview. During the event, participants received information from a series of expert speakers before they engaged in facilitated small and large group deliberations. In between the two weekends, participants were encouraged to discuss issues raised during the deliberations with families and friends. They also had the opportunity to contribute to a participant blog that was contained on a website managed by UBC team members. The conceptual framework for this event was based on our team’s past deliberative engagement on biobanks held in April, 2007. Our model has since been replicated in different locations including Rochester, Minnesota at the Mayo Clinic and in Western Australia.

Mapping an organism’s DNA through sequencing has already been completed for a range of living creatures including human beings. It is hoped that this process will allow scientists to understand the function of genes within an organism. Researchers with the Consortium for Genomic Research on All Salmonids Program have a strong interest in sequencing the salmon genome, making it a timely topic for public deliberation. However, discussions regarding any salmon related topic in British Columbia (BC) can be particularly challenging. Salmon are highly symbolic creatures that have reached an iconic status for both First Nations and non First Nations communities in BC. These animals are also a keystone species, of great importance to many environmental ecosystems.  The social and environmental significance of salmon coupled with controversies surrounding various salmon industries (e.g., salmon farming) make it a potential polarizing topic. In other words, any discussion of salmon related issues may push participants to extreme views which would present a significant obstacle to meaningful deliberation.

Perhaps one of the most significant findings to emerge from our preliminary analysis is that deliberations during the event did not become polarized. What we saw were participants learning about salmon genomics from experts and discussing ideas and values vigorously amongst each other. Further analysis on a range of topics is currently underway. We invite all interested parties to visit our website, which provides detailed descriptions of the event and will eventually include our papers and reports.

UBC Team website:

Salmon genomics event website:

* The salmon genomics deliberative public engagement was supported by the Building a GE3LS Architecture project through The W. Maurice Young Centre for Applied Ethics at the University of British Columbia, Genome British Columbia, Genome Canada, and the Consortium for Genomic Research on All Salmonids Program (cGRASP).

Dialogue Across Ideological Divides
Submitted by DeAnna Martin & Susan Partnow

At the recent National Conference on Dialogue and Deliberation, we attended a panel of speakers who consider themselves “conservatives” to help us understand why dialogues seem to narrowly attract “progressives” and especially of a certain age, white, and middle class. We want to share some of the things we heard and lessons learned to consider the implications for Conversation Cafes and similar endeavors to dialogue across divides.

First, there are certain fears that tend to turn conservatives off to dialogue. These fears create barriers to showing up if they feel they have to:

1)      Give up the Truth… If dialogue assumes all truths are relative, it is an unwelcome environment for someone who has fundamentalist convictions about right and wrong.

2)      Be coerced towards some hidden agenda… Questions come up about what the ultimate goal of dialogue really is: to convince me of something? To get me involved in some sort of larger social change? Is there really an authentic space for conservative views?

3)      Be changed… perhaps this is connected to a hidden agenda to convince me that my views are wrong?

One way that individuals in the evangelical community have found their way through these fears is by engaging in what they call, “Convicted civility.”  Individuals engage in dialogue, sharing candidly about where they are convicted, from their place of The Truth, while the other seeks to understand – ‘living the friendship, not the argument.’ We learned that conservatives might be turned off by how the dialogue is framed. Particular triggers for conservatives are words like:

  • “Sustainability” – is there some intent to coerce me to become an environmentalist?
  • “Global warming” – versus a more conservative framing “energy security”
  • “Community organizing” – is code for someone telling me what to do, I don’t need to be organized
  • “Consciousness” – should only be used in a boxing match to assess is he conscious or not…
  • Progressive” – implies you’re more evolved than me, I’m stupid
  • “Grassroots” – must mean a Trojan horse end-run around the system
  • “Civic engagement” – must be some kind of agenda you want everyone to get involved in

Second, there are certain values that shed light on what conservatives find important. By looking at these we can understand better how to appeal across divides to bring people together. Some of the values expressed by panelists were:

  • Self-Governance – I am responsible for myself, my family and my community all within a democratic republic
  • Personal Responsibility – when dialogues emphasize government as the only answer, rather than each of us making up our own minds about how we can take care of ourselves, our families, and our neighbours
  • Voluntary Cooperation – coercion of any kind, whether that be an expectation to come up with something we all agree to or a hidden agenda to convert, is the antithesis of this

So let’s consider these insights as they relate to how we go about our Conversation Cafes and other dialogue efforts.

Frame & Identify Issues We Have in Common

Dialogue can be framed as a desire to understand and know each other and must include all aspects of the self, including religious values. We must find non-partisan issues we all care about, such as transparency, integrity, and accountability. These issues might stem from where there is a felt need to link political will with deliberation, then be careful about how decision makers are involved in the cycles of discussion and be transparent about everyone’s commitment and role in the process.

Be Careful about Liberal Blind Spots
Taking our cue from the trigger words shared previously, we must find language that doesn’t assume we intend to evolve people to a particular end, organize them, or that limits our scope for what and who is ultimately responsible. Cultivate humility… Be willing to let go of our own agendas and accept that we have more to learn and understand.

Define Dialogue as Part of Broader Civic Engagement
Respect that each of us is self-governing and we are self-governing together… Be open to seeing the free market as civic engagement, i.e. in a free market businesses are figuring out what people want and providing it. Dialogue in our civic engagement is about integrating the values of the republic with the needs of the republic.

Emphasize Non-Coercive Outcomes
Dialogue as an end in itself, not about reaching some pre-determined outcome. Just the talking is valuable without the pressure to generate some kind of agreement or shared outcome. Sell the mapping of the issues, rather than an outcome… deeper understanding, empathy, and connection to what this issue looks like from many perspectives. So the outcome is discovery. Mutual respect and appreciation – humanization. Self-understanding to be more personally responsible. Emphasize that it’s not about seeking change.

Demonstrate Value in Terms of Enhancing Social Capital
Dialogue creates opportunities for connections where none existed before, which builds the health and vitality of a community – essential to safety and security.  Express how conversations with others gives life to the expression, “Love thy neighbor as thyself.”

Listening to our Conservative speakers and panelists was stimulating, mind opening and humbling.  We hope sharing these thoughts with you will serve us all in broadening our conversations to include more diversity of thought, which will ultimately serve us all in moving forward in this complex world.

DeAnna J Martin, Executive Director | Center for Wise Democracy | 206-459-8429 | deannaatwisedemocracy [dot] org | and Susan Partnow Founding Director, Global Citizen Journey, Certified Facilitator & Director of Advanced Training, Compassionate Listening,