Later this week, more than 400 leaders, innovators and practitioners in the participatory democracy sector will gather in Reston, VA for the 6th National Conference on Dialogue & Deliberation.

From the website:

Our theme for this year’s conference – Democracy for the Next Generation – challenges us to build on all the innovative practices and tools that have been invigorating the dialogue and deliberation community in recent years. Now more than ever, we have both the opportunity and, increasingly, the imperative to bring this work to a much larger stage in order to build a stronger democracy that is able to address society’s most pressing challenges.

If this is the kind of thing that gets you excited, it’s not too late to register.

While the use of technology to support dialogue and deliberation has always been an occasional discussion topic among the general NCDD membership, there has been a significant uptick in interest over the past year or so, their Tech Tuesdays series being just one example (see here). It will be quite fascinating to watch if this is the year the technology question will finally play a significant and fundamental role in the conversations, particularly when it comes to building a stronger democracy at scale.

One indicator pointing in that direction is the fact that this year’s D&D Showcase is chock full of digital engagement technology providers and software solutions, incl. Bang The Table, Consider.It, Common Ground for Action, Ethelo Decisions, Metroquest, OneCounts, PlaceSpeak, PopVox and our very own Zilino:

Zilino is a web-based solution that enables practitioners to host deliberative online forums and other types of well-designed, well-facilitated and outcome-oriented group processes, both stand-alone and in combination with in-person activities. With its modular toolkit approach, Zilino supports a wide range of engagement scenarios and is currently being used in the United States in the public, non-profit and higher education sectors.

Just like previous NCDD conferences, the list of workshops offers so many compelling topics and presenters that it will be painful to decide which ones to attend and which ones to skip.

While the feedback phase for the Knight News Challenge is still ongoing (see here), I will likely attend two workshops on Saturday at the intersection of libraries and civic engagement:

Beyond Books: Librarians, Journalists and Dialogue Professionals Working Together

What’s possible when information professionals like librarians and journalists work together with dialogue practitioners to inform and engage communities? This session will support a self-organizing format to contemplate: “What’s possible at the intersection of libraries, journalism, and civic practitioners that can serve the information needs of communities and democracy?” Help us answer that question as we convene NCDD conference participants to consider possibilities for involving them with local journalists and librarians in order to build civic infrastructure and capacity.

Nancy Kranich
Convener, ALA Center for Civic Life/Lecturer, Rutgers University School of Communication and Information and American Library Association/Rutgers University

Peggy Holman
Executive Director, Journalism That Matters

Marla Crockett
Public Media Consultant and NCDD Board Member

And:

From Box to Bridge: Kansas Libraries as Places for Community Conversations

Five librarians from across Kansas will describe how they build internal and public capacity for conversations about a range of challenging topics. Most of the session will be presenter and participant conversation about 1) the strengths libraries bring to capacity building and related strategies and 2) community conversation models libraries use to meet the demands of each situation. Participants will leave with strategies and an expanded list of potential partners to convene community conversations.

Myles Alexander
Project Coordinator, Institute for Civic Discourse and Democracy at Kansas State University

Donna Schenck-Hamlin
Assistant to the Dean for Grants and Collaborative Projects, Kansas State University, Hale Library

On Sunday, another recommended session will highlight some of the lessons learned during the Real Dialogues project (see here):

Video Deliberations: the Opportunity and Challenge

Online video conferencing is quickly becoming an important tool for dialogue and deliberation. This session will feature lessons learned from a number of projects that used Google Hangouts, Webex and other platforms to conduct live video conferences for people to discuss public policy issues—including Interactivity Foundation projects, Face the Facts Hangouts, Soliya’s cross-cultural web dialogues, and the NCDD 2012 Catalyst Award winner Real Dialogues. Through recorded video, live demonstrations and group discussion, participants will explore the strengths, challenges, capacities and pitfalls of online video conferencing for public discourse.

Mark Amadeus Notturno and Shannon Wheatley Hartman
Fellows, Interactivity Foundation

Susanna Haas Lyons
Public Participation Specialist + Civic Technologist

Waidehi Gokhale
Director of Partnerships & Development, Soliya

One of our very first clients, the West Virginia Center for Civic Life, currently has a new state-wide project under way, for which Intellitics will be providing the online deliberation component. You can learn more about the ambitious initiative during this workshop, also on Sunday:

What’s Next, WV? A Statewide Conversation . . . One Community at a Time

What’s Next, West Virginia? is a nonpartisan, statewide initiative to encourage local dialogue about West Virginia’s future and to help communities plan actions, based on their own ideas for building stronger local economies. Through sharing the story of What’s Next, WV, project partners will paint a picture of the growing civic infrastructure and community capacity to talk and work together on public issues in West Virginia. Participants will share their own insights in a discussion about what it takes to develop ongoing practices of civic engagement in a community–or even a state!

Betty Knighton
Director, West Virginia Center for Civic Life

Kent Spellman
Director, West Virginia Community Development HUB

There’s plenty more, of course.

We look forward to catching up with old friends and seeing and meeting many of our clients and prospective future clients.