We view community as a complex tapestry of interconnected conversations. Public dialogue can be understood as a series of “conversational turns” in which what occurs in one set of meetings is incorporated into the next round of discussions; each discussion growing out of one context and affecting the next context.
In addition to interconnected conversations, we view community as comprised of stakeholder groups with different and sometimes conflicting ideas of what their community should be. We see these differences as enriching rather than problematic.
Community building is central to our work and requires active engagement with all community members.
We believe there should be support from the top for initiatives from the bottom. It’s crucial for governments and community organizations to recognize and support public engagement, and for community members to feel heard. This often requires creating new places for quality communication to occur between residents and community leaders.
We treat language as “fateful” and recognize that the way issues are framed and discussed affects outcomes as well as the level of trust and respect among the various stakeholders. Therefore, we work collaboratively to name and frame public conversations.
We see the engagement process as a series of dialogic conversations. We think of dialogue as the ability to state your perspectives, values, and desires while remaining open to the perspectives, values, and desires of others. Engaging in this form of communication creates the conditions for trust and respect and opens up possibilities for enriched actions.
We recognize that as facilitators we must remain neutral with regard to the outcome of community decisions, but vigilant about the process in which those decisions are made.
1/13 – 1/14 The Transfomative Power of Dialogue: Festschift for Barnett Pearce in Santa Barbara, CA, during Fielding Graduate University’s doctoral session. Join colleagues and friends as the life work of Barnett Pearce is honored for its impact on our understanding of how we make social worlds. For information and registration details visit http://transformativedialogue.eventbrite.com 11/3/10 Annual conference of the American Planning Association, California Chapter, in Carlsbad, CA. Shawn Spano and Sandra Holder of PDC conduct a workshop session titled “Citizen Engagement Toolbox”, provided participants with an overview of citizen engagement and in-depth analysis of the communication perspective. Participants learned how to use the communication perspective to design and facilitate engagement events in response to planning and land use issues and projects. Over 30 government and private planners attended the session. Several participants told Sandy and Shawn that it was the most useful and stimulating session of the conference! For information and details about the conference visit http://www.calapa.org/2010-conference 10/29/10 The 1st NorCal regional conference for the National Coalition for Dialogue and Deliberation (NCDD). PDC directors Jennifer Mair and Janice Son join the NCDD planning team to co-create a collaborative event aimed at building working relationships between local government leaders and dialogue practitioners. PDC President Shawn Spano moderates and co-facilitates afternoon workshop sessions. For information and details about the event visit http://ncdd.org/events/sanfrancisco.php 10/16/10 Public Engagement and Civic Maturity: A Public Dialogue Consortium Perspectiveis published by Kim Pearce of Pearce Associates, Founder and Board Member of PDC. For information or to order a copy, go to: http://www.lulu.com/product/paperback/public-engagement-and-civic-maturity-a-public-dialogue-consortium-perspective/14305051 10/15/10 The annual Municipal Managers Association of Northern California (MMANC) conference in Cupertino, CA. Shawn Spano, Linda Blong and Sandra Holder of PDC lead a workshop titled “Civic Engagement: The Public as Partners.” For a session description, click here: http://www.mmanc.org/2010AnnualConference/SessionDescriptions/tabid/154/Default.aspx
Dialogue is a special form of communication that creates positive results for individuals, groups, organizations, and communities. Some of the outcomes of dialogic communication are:
A more engaged, effective and satisfied level of participation
More constructive relationships among diverse stakeholder groups
Recognition of one’s own and others’ legitimate interests, respect for others beliefs and experiences, and increased understanding of both sides’ underlying beliefs and values
An understanding of how community members shape and define issues and problems by their joint actions, and how to move forward into more constructive patterns of communication
Emergent leadership and enhanced capacities within the community to organize and run high-quality, inclusive, and constructive meetings
Concrete plans and decisions based on collaboration and consensus, resulting in greater buy-in and community ownership
PDC is committed to fostering high quality communication in the public sphere that results in collaborative problem solving, appreciation for different perspectives, and identification of common ground. Our approach to dialogue and public conversations distinctly focuses on communication processes and the resulting outcomes and relationships created in our communities. Working collaboratively with our clients, we design and guide communication processes that foster trust and respect, build relationships, and focus on desirable outcomes for all members of the community.
7 Principles for Developing Public Dialogue in Communities
We view the community as a system comprised of a complex tapestry of interconnected conversations. Thinking systemically will help us to identify the various “stakeholder” groups in the community and involve them in our project. Additionally, it enables us to see each step of the project as a series of “conversational turns” in which what occurs in one series of meetings is incorporated into the next round of discussions; each discussion growing out of one context and affecting the next context.
We view the community as a “multiverse” containing many social worlds. In addition to interconnected conversations, the community is comprised of stakeholder groups with different and sometimes, conflicting ideas of what their community should be. We see these differences as enriching rather than problematic.
We involve the public in the project from the beginning. We think if community building is to take place, residents need to be involved throughout the project.
We believe there should be support from the top for initiatives from the bottom. Most residents are not interested in “just talk,” instead they want to see the connection between their ideas and community initiatives and action steps. We think it’s crucial for city government to recognize and support resident involvement and for residents to feel heard. This often requires creating new places for quality communication to occur between residents and community leaders.
We treat language as “fateful” and recognize that the way issues are framed and discussed affect the “outcomes as well as the level of trust and respect among the various stakeholders. Therefore, we always work collaboratively with the community.
We see the entire community process as a series of dialogic conversations. We think of dialogue as the ability to state your perspectives, values, and desires while remaining open to the perspectives, values, and desires of others. We think that engaging in this form of communication creates the conditions for trust and respect and opens up possibilities for enriched actions.
We recognize our own role in the “system.” Although we are not members of the community, we realize that whenever we facilitate a discussion or attend meetings of community stakeholders, our presence makes a difference. We need to continually remind ourselves that as facilitators we must remain neutral with regard to the outcome of community decisions, but we are passionate about the process in which those decisions are made. The process is one in which our role is to be on everybody’s side and in which all parties feel
The challenges facing local governments and other public agencies require new ways of engaging the public. For many public leaders, the potential promise of public engagement is tempered by concerns about how to effectively manage the process. • Is your organization prepared to engage with the public in creative problem solving? • Are your community members prepared to engage with your organization and staff in creativeproblemsolving? • Does your organization and community have the capacity, knowledge base and skill set to engage effectively? The PDC can help public leaders assess organizational and community readiness, deliver direct public participation services, and provide training for administrative staff, elected officials and community members. All of our work is customized. We do not offer pre-packaged programs. Whether you are just getting started in public engagement or have extensive experience, we have the tools, methods and experience to take you to the next level.
The PDC specializes in innovative communication tools specifically developed to effectively address the social and economic challenges we face today. We provide a full spectrum of public engagement services specifically tailored to meet your needs.
Diagnostic Tools for assessing the most appropriate courses of action for public engagement in your community.
Process Designs to develop short and long-term strategies to address immediate and emergent needs, focusing on engaging community members and staff in ongoing relationships and problem solving activities.
Event Designs to develop meetings and forums that bring community members and staff together to constructively work on important public issues.
Facilitation skills that enable community members and staff to speak candidly, listen openly and collaborate together to problem solve effectively.
Conflict Management to help groups and individuals manage their differences on public issues in ways that create trust, build relationships and develop common solutions.
Evaluation Tools to assess the effectiveness of public engagement processes and events, to generate recommendations, and to inform future processes and events.
Training and Capacity Building for staff and citizens in communication and facilitation techniques for sustainable, ongoing public engagement practices.
Client Consultations to learn more about public engagement and the services offered by the PDC. Our initial 1-hour phone consultation is FREE!
We envision a world in which communication in the public sphere is humane, constructive, and beneficial to all. We believe that how people communicate determines the kind of world in which they live. If they communicate in hostile, polarized, problem-centered ways, they make a world of destructive conflict. If they communicate in a collaborative and constructive fashion, they make a world in which problems can be solved creatively, differences can be explored appreciatively, and better futures can be constructed for the entire community.