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"Can our field present a united front to the new Administration? Let's start by seeing if we can develop a set of principles for public engagement we can all endorse..."

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    • CommentAuthorAndy
    • CommentTimeApr 1st 2009 edited

    Notes on Version 3.0 Changes

    These are Tom Atlee's detailed notes on the changes made between version 2.4 and version 3.0....


    This version of PEP has been altered from the previous version to take into account the many comments and new lists of principles that have been submitted to this forum.

    It is compiled based on these assumptions:

    1. That the names and one-sentence descriptions of principles in this version will be submitted to organizations in the field for comment and endorsement, as an expression of basic consensus in the field of dialogue, deliberation, and public engagement -- with an option that any organization can provide an additional "yes-and" expression of principles which guide them above and beyond those in PEP 3.0, or in their application of PEP 3.0 principles.
    2. That there will be a parallel compilation of guiding principles for government agencies created collaboratively by practitioners familiar with the public engagement needs of federal decision-makers, managers and other staff, which will be submitted with PEP 3.0 to the Obama administration.
    3. That there will be parallel compilations of guiding principles done by practitioners and theoreticians involved with work that pushes the boundaries of the D&D field including, for example, emergent processes and the use of online and other computer-assisted D&D and decision-making, to inform and engage more mainstream practitioners in the development of our field.
    4. That citizen deliberative consultations with government on policy issues AND efforts to bring together stakeholders for community action AND efforts to resolve, heal, or transform conflict AND efforts to further understanding among people or about issues -- ALL can be considered forms of public engagement and their dynamics represented in this document, however imperfectly.
    5. That critiques and comments on this document will continue to be made, with occasional publication of revisions whenever significant shifts seem to have developed in the consensus of the field.

    Version 3.0 represents an effort to produce a set of Public Engagement Principles that, as much as possible, reflects current core principles of the field at large. It does not and cannot reflect the principles of everyone, especially with the specificity, priority, and relative certainty that each practitioner would prefer.

    Thus many comments have not been adequately included because they have come from perspectives that push the boundaries of mainstream theory and practice in our field, and thus cannot be legitimately featured in this MAINSTREAM consensus document. Although we have not featured these perspectives, we have tried as much as possible to not exclude them, by framing the version 3.0 principles in ways that CAN BE interpreted as including them.

    Beyond that, we recognize that these ideas that push the boundaries of dialogue and deliberation -- such as needing no additional information because all the information needed is in the participants -- are vital for the development of the field. We encourage their advocates to collaboratively work out their own sets of principles (as in activity [3], above) on the NCDD site for others to learn from and comment on. These dialogues will then influence the next iteration of the main set of principles and, as the field evolves, so will our statements of mainstream consensus.

    Now here is a description of the edits made to create version 3.0.


    1. The introduction was changed to reflect the idea that this document is intended to reflect the broader field of dialogue and deliberation and not only to improve relationships between government and citizens. This includes the following statement inspired by Pete Peterson: "We believe that public engagement involves convening diverse yet representative groups of people to wrestle with information from a variety of viewpoints, in conversations that are well-facilitated, providing direction for their own community activities or public judgments that will be seriously considered by policy-makers and/or their fellow citizens."

    2. The "At its best" heading in each principle has been replaced with "In high quality engagement" since commentators disagreed about how ideal these statements were, with many feeling the best engagements go far beyond these standards, while others felt that putting the bar too high (as in the earlier framing of "what this looks like") invalidated efforts to do one's best with limited resources. The phrase "high quality" begs the issue of "HOW high", while retaining the sense that most practitioners would consider it very desirable to meet these standards. Meeting them somewhat would then constitute good engagement without necessarily qualifying as "excellent."

    3. A note has been added to highlight our field's rich diversity that may be obscured by the basic consensus nature of this document. This reads: "This list represents a consensus in the field of dialogue and deliberation, but most practices tend to emphasize or apply these principles differently or to reach beyond this basic consensus in one way or another. To learn more about such diverse understandings and applications, consult the online version of these guidelines."

    4. Another note adds "Finally, we believe the use of technology should be generally encouraged whenever appropriate to enhance and not impede these seven values -- and also that these seven principles apply to both online and offline efforts. However, there is not yet consensus in our field on standards for the use of technology that would warrant the inclusion of specific online or electronic guidelines in this document."


    A number of dynamic tensions have arisen about what word to use to name each of the principles. I now believe that using TWO concepts in the name generates a field of meaning that is much more powerful and comprehensive, due to the evocative synergies between the two words. This perspective generated the following names:

    1. Planning and Preparation
    2. Inclusion and Diversity
    3. Collaboration and Shared Purpose
    4. Listening and Learning
    5. Transparency and Trust
    6. Impact and Action
    7. Sustained Engagement and Democratic Culture



    1. In PLANNING AND PREPARATION, I replaced "in accordance with the other six principles" with "specifically to serve both the purpose of the effort and the needs of participants" because (a) some of the preparatory needs are not connected to the other six principles, (b) we wanted to stress that "purpose" should always be the guiding star of design, along with the fact that (c) success can be seriously undermined by failing to attend to the basic needs of the participants. If attended to alone, designing for EITHER purpose or participant needs can lead to failure, whereas TOGETHER they are a powerful combination. Finally, while it helps to note the role of design in applying the other six principles, that factor can be assumed in this one-sentence description, especially since design is also implicit in the other six principles, and the "In high quality engagement" paragraph includes the sentence "In general, they promote conditions that support all the qualities on this list."

    2. In INCLUSION AND DIVERSITY, "multiple voices" was changed to "diverse voices", not only because it is the diversity rather than merely the multiplicity that defines quality inclusion, but because "diversity" subliminally brings the issue of marginalized voices into the one-sentence description. Also, "information" was added to "voices and ideas" as diversity of available information is a vital factor, especially in deliberation. Its inclusion has been explicit in the paragraph descriptions of the principle, but to the extent we depend on the one-sentence description, it needs to be made explicit at that level.

    3. In LISTENING AND LEARNING, I changed "events" to "public engagement activities" because events could be current events or any other kind of events, and "activities" also covers projects, programs, online forums, etc., that may not be events at all.

    4. In TRANSPARENCY AND TRUST, I changed "events" to "forums" for the same reason.

    5. In IMPACT AND ACTION, I changed "potential" to "real potential" to upgrade it a bit from "vague possibility of impact" in the direction of "definite impact" without requiring any guaranteed level of impact.

    6. In SUSTAINED ENGAGEMENT AND DEMOCRATIC CULTURE, I changed the one-sentence description to "Promote a culture of participation with programs and institutions that support ongoing quality public engagement" to eliminate the awkwardness of "sustain" being used twice.



    1. In PLANNING AND PREPARATION, I added "with adequate support" to the first sentence. I revised the second sentence to read "Together they get clear on their unique context, purpose and task, which then inform their process design as well as their venue selection, set-up and choice of participants" to embrace factors that Kenoli identified.

    I moved the sentence "Facilitation is weak or too directive, interfering with people's ability to communicate with each other openly, adjust their stances, and make progress" to the LEARNING AND LISTENING "What to avoid" paragraph, where it is more appropriate.

    2. In INCLUSION AND DIVERSITY, I revised the sentence "Convenors and participants reflect the range of stakeholder or demographic diversity on the issue at hand" to "Convenors and participants reflect the range of functional stakeholder or demographic diversity within the community or on the issue at hand."

    I've also noted the role of anonymity to secure some contributions, while also noting its tendency to protect power abusers.

    3. In COLLABORATION AND SHARED PURPOSE, I changed the word "presenting" to "sharing" and added "In official deliberations, there is good coordination among relevant agencies dealing with the issue being deliberated." as the last sentence.

    In the "What to avoid" paragraph, I added the word "patronizing" to describe experts and authorities who look down on the public.

    4. In LISTENING AND LEARNING, I changed "useful information" to "adequate, fair, and useful information". While Tim had suggested "complete, objective, useful", I felt that information is never complete -- and can easily be "too much" -- nor is it ever "objective" and information masquerading as objective usually had biases and assumptions hidden in it. Thus the ideal should not be one view masquerading as objective, but a range of often partisan views and information adequate for participants to learn about the complexity of the matter and then make up their own minds.

    Also, I only changed the description of information in this section because in INCLUSION AND DIVERSITY, the fairness and diversity of information are the only really important informational factors, while here the adequacy and utility become significant. (Tim's note on EPA's definition of quality information would be great to include in our more encyclopedic breakdown of these principles on the NCDD site.).

    I changed "willing to be curious" to "be curious".

    I added the sentence "There is an appropriate balance between consulting (a) facts and expertise and (b) participants' experience, values, inner wisdom, vision, intuition, and concerns." I chose the word "appropriate" because that balance will be very different depending on the nature of the engagement.

    I added a note about the desirability of facilitator neutrality, and added "shared guidelines" as a factor that can help people speak, listen, and learn.

    I revised "Careful review and evaluation improves subsequent engagement work" to "Careful review, evaluation, and a spirit of exploration and innovation improve subsequent engagement work and develop institutional and community capacity."

    In the "what to avoid" paragraph, I added "Assertive, mainstream, and official voices dominate" and changed "event" to "what they've done" (for the same reasons given earlier for replacing "event"). Also I dropped "poor facilitation" from the impediments for dealing with complexity, since I had moved the sentence "Facilitation is weak or too directive, interfering with people's ability to communicate with each other openly, adjust their stances, and make progress" from the first principle to this section.

    5. In TRANSPARENCY AND TRUST, I added "in a timely way" to the second sentence and "access information" to what members of the public should easily be able to do. And I added the sentence "Video proceedings of government-sponsored deliberations are available online, both in real time and archives." to the positive paragraph.

    I also added the sentence "Process consultants and facilitators are helpful and realistic in describing their place in the field of public engagement and what to expect from their work."

    6. In IMPACT AND ACTION, I replaced "community and national issues" with "their shared world" not only for simplicity (one definition of "world" being a realm or environment, inclusive of community or nation) but especially to free it up from "issues" (since "community vision", for example, is not necessarily about "issues") and to allow for impact on global concerns.

    I added government, business and nonprofits as venues for communications that inform people about public engagement events.

    In the "What to avoid" section, I added "ill-timed" to "inarticulate or useless" as qualities of a public deliberative statement that could lead to it being ignored by decision-makers.

    7. In SUSTAINED ENGAGEMENT AND DEMOCRATIC CULTURE I expanded knowledge and skills to say "not only develop a sense of ownership and buy-in, but gain knowledge and skills". I also noted that "relationships are built over time."

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