Odds and ends for a Monday morning…

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Whenever Tom Atlee publishes an article, people who value dialogue should pay attention. Most recently, on the National Coalition for Dialogue & Deliberation (NCDD) blog, Tom posted a compelling piece about three categories of “sensibility” in our public square—one of which should get way more attention than it does.

As we all know, pollsters and pundits excel at reading public opinion. It can change like the wind. On a deeper level, public judgment consists of considered insights and positions that have resulted from weighing pros and cons, hearing from people of diverse viewpoints, etc. It is often the happy outcome of dialogue and deliberation efforts.

Tom posits that in addition to these, we desperately need public wisdom: “an expansion of public judgment to include more of what needs to be taken into account for broad, long-term benefit.” It includes moving beyond current collective interests to moral and ethical quandaries, consideration for future generations, an appreciation for ambiguity and mystery, etc.

Absorbing the concepts in this article will require sustained attention, but the payoff is worth the effort. So grab an extra cup of coffee, put your feet up, and start reading. Oh, and do feel free to comment on the NCDD blog!

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I think of electrifying as applying to events that have already happened. Still, the more I read about NCDD’s 2012 conference in Seattle, the more I believe it will richly deserve that adjective. (Full disclosure: I’m an NCDD board member and a member of the planning committee.)

To celebrate its 10th anniversary, NCDD has devoted the conference to a single question: How can we build a more robust civic infrastructure for our practice, our communities, and our country? In our highly polarized culture, this kind of civic infrastructure (which I define as grassroots structures and systems that would bring way more dialogue and way less shouting to our public square) can ensure that we have the capacity to make better decisions and solve problems effectively. A few elements of the conference, according to a flier on the topic:

  • Speakers of distinction. New York Times Notable Book author Eric Liu, AmericaSpeaks founder Carolyn Lukensmeyer, Everyday Democracy executive director Martha McCoy, and others from the top echelon of the field. If you don’t know much about the people in dialogue and deliberation, trust me, this is an extremely impressive lineup.
  • Participatory workshops. Opportunities to network with colleagues, learn about the latest innovations, exchange ideas with leaders in the field, experience innovative group methods, and work together to explore key challenges.
  • An active role for you. Because every participant has expertise to share, we invite you to contribute your insights toward shaping our civic infrastructure and its key elements: participatory processes for institutions to use, great places and online spaces where citizens can gather, a cadre of trained facilitators, strong networks that can mobilize to solve problems.

In short: this conference just might be an essential milestone in the field. By attending, you could have the opportunity to shape something important, and hear from the leaders in the field, and hang out in Seattle.

I don’t know if I can make it this year—the costs involved in traveling from the East Coast are a challenge—but if you’ll be anywhere near Seattle in October, do consider attending. Visit www.ncdd.org/events for more.

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Book update: Things are progressing very well for the book. Currently it’s slated for release to the world in mid-November, but you can pre-order the book now. Perhaps the biggest news is that there’s been a slight change in title: it now reads Why Can’t We Talk? Christian Wisdom on Dialogue as a Habit of the Heart. The good marketing people at SkyLight Paths Publishing felt that, since the book is written primarily for Christians (for one reason only: it’s the faith tradition I know and can most credibly speak to), it ought to have the word Christian in the title. On the other hand, we agreed on the more inviting word wisdom—instead of words like tradition or religion or, God forbid, doctrine—because we truly want this book, as much as possible within my limitations as a writer, to be for everyone. Just in case you wondered…