Discussion

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21 thoughts on “Discussion

  1. Welcome and thanks for your interest in the site! What are your reactions to the results of the 2009 D&D Practitioners Survey? Do you have any suggestions for us to improve this website? Any questions for us about the survey? Did you find any particular results especially interesting or unexpected? We are eager to know what you think. Cheers, Caroline

    • Thanks Tim for the blog post! What specifically about the fact that 57% preferred the term “Community of Practice” for the people and organizations leading D&D efforts interested you?

      Carolyn Hendriks and Lyn Carson prefer this term in their 2008 article in Policy Sciences:
      http://tiny.cc/gWLPM

      But many sociologists, political scientists, and communications scholars write and talk about the people and organizations leading D&D as a “movement.” See, for example Jacobs, Cook, and Delli Carpini on the “Public Deliberation Movement” in their book Talking Together (Chicago 2009):
      http://tinyurl.com/yehnk8e
      Only 16% of respondents selected this term.

  2. Thank you for putting together this survey.

    I couple quick observations: urban planning is a major topic of dialogue, but not one of the major fields these practitioners are coming from.

    I also wonder what explains the age distribution – only 4% of respondents were born in the 1980s. Is deliberation an interest that only comes with age/wisdom, or is the generation that came of age in the early 70s unusual?

    • Rob– Thanks for the comments!

      Regarding the issue of age in the group, this raises a number of questions for those who want to strengthen the community of practice. On the one hand, the top-heaviness of this group with respect to age is a major opportunity, as it means that practitioners have a lot of experience to share. On the other, it might be a sign that the pathways into the field need further development. There is lots of evidence that deliberation and dialogue appeal to young people. See, for example, this conference organized by students:
      http://mathewscenter.org/2010_student_conference/
      Or projects like Orange Band:
      http://www.orangeband.org/
      So, if D&D does appeal to young people– is this an easy field to break into for young people in their 20s and 30s? How are leaders in the field drawing on the energy of youth and connecting with students doing D&D work? In my observations at D&D conferences, there has been a lot of interest in these questions.

      As a sociological researcher interested in the development of the field, I am very interested in studying the age, period, and cohort effects you point out. How do practitioners credit formative experiences in the late 1960s and 1970s with influencing their interest in deliberation? There is quite a bit of time between the 1970s and the late 1990s when many began their work. What were the intervening life experiences and historical events in the late 1980s and 1990s that led practitioners into the field? Is multi-disciplinary work of this sort easier to do once a practitioner is well-established in a traditional field?

      Finally, it’s important to note that the time lag from interest to practice may play a role in the lack of respondents born in the 1980s. Those in their teens and early 20s who are just getting interested in the field are less likely to belong to D&D organizations or listservs and therefore less likely to have responded to our survey.

      • What about the other question?

        “urban planning is a major topic of dialogue, but not one of the major fields these practitioners are coming from.”

        • Hi Patrice– Thanks for following up! This is a really interesting question but one that’s hard to get at with the survey data we have. Matt Leighninger is working on a collection of essays on the intersection of deliberation and a number of disciplines like public administration that should shed some light on the relationship between urban planning training and deliberation.
          The sampling design of the survey focused on folks who self-identify as “dialogue and deliberation practitioners” because we were interested in the ways that D&D is developing as its own field. So we can say that very few of those who self-identify as D&D practitioners in our sample have advanced degrees in urban planning, but that likely leaves out a lot of people with urban planning backgrounds who use D&D methods occasionally in their everyday work (or may contract with D&D consultants for specific projects) but don’t self-identify as practitioners. This is where qualitative research can help us fill in the blanks. What’s your own perspective on this question/finding?

  3. These results are tremendously valuable. To move the field forward, we need to know where we stand, and you did it!

    I’d also be interested in seeing you weight the opinion questions by the level of experience of the respondent. In other words, your survey gave each person one vote; I’d like to see if some of the questions have significantly different results if the vote of a person with 10 years of experience has twice as much weight as a person with 5 years of experience. It looks like you could perform these calculations with the data you already have on hand, and that might unlock some additional insight.

  4. This study falls squarely in the middle of my dissertation on Archetypal Psychology and the process arts and I am grateful for your choice to undertake it. I hope it contributes to a deeper sense of identification as colleagues, the likelihood of better cross-pollination, and the application of our skill set to our own community of practice. Do you have a sense of the ways in which your data sample might lead to a better understanding of the growth of the field through consensus on classic identity markers like shared-naming and foundational narratives, development of an ethics, etc.?

    • Thanks Brandon, and good luck on your dissertation! Even though it drives my students crazy, I am going to throw your questions to the group since what members of the field choose to do with these results and whether they find them valuable is up to them. We found lots of areas of substantial agreement (as high as 97% and 92% on two questions), and some areas of disagreement in the field. If you found these valuable in shaping your understanding of the field, how so? Were you surprised at the extent of consensus on some of these questions?

  5. I think you are glossing over the insularity of the dialogue and deliberation crew. This community is largely a white, left leaning, highly educated, and (I am guessing) has an income generally greater than the median. D&D does likely appeal to young people, but the young people born in the 80’s are only just now finishing their degrees and entering into a job market that provides few good (and maybe no great) opportunities. Point being, D&D is a field of privilege and in a declining economy, those who already have privileged access to the D&D jobs are likely keeping them on their inside circle, leaving younger folks with the weakest paying work or with only volunteer opportunities, neither of which make for an attractive career. The D&D field speaks of inclusion through dialogue but excludes those who don’t ascribe to the same value system or who aren’t already somehow insiders.

    • daveo: The connection of representation in the field to occupational mobility, and the implications of the current demographics for expanding the practice of D&D or further diversifying the field, are extremely important. Thanks for raising them here, and apologies for not addressing these in more detail in my comments on age and occupational mobility above. As sociologists, issues of structural inequality and discrimination drive a lot of the research questions Francesca and I investigate in our different projects. In particular, sociologists have documented that the effect you note (where a lack of diversity ends up perpetuating occupational segregation, even in the absence of overt discrimination, because of outsiders’ exclusion from the network ties critical to getting a job) persists in U.S. occupations, and it is likely to be occurring here as well.

      First, I have posted some more data comparing the gender, racial and ethnic background, and political perspective of U.S. respondents in our survey to recent survey data on the U.S. population as a whole and to the reference group of full-time college professors.

      http://sites.lafayette.edu/ddps/our-results/representativeness/

      This gives us more information to work from when thinking about the causes and consequences of inequality since, while it is discussed in the field a lot, the dimensions of a general lack of diversity are often less clear. For example, we find that Hispanic and Latino practitioners are substantially more underrepresented among survey respondents as compared to the U.S. population than other racial and ethnic minorities. We also find that women are substantially overrepresented. The openness of the field to women may seem like something to celebrate, but sociologists have studied feminization in other occupations as sometimes resulting from male flight as occupations diversify and as status and pay decline, although the causal relationships here are hard to untangle.

      In my field research, I have observed that lots of discussions in the field revolve around issues of inclusion and “walking the talk.” I have not observed very much discussion of the implications of the declining economy with respect to diversity in the field, although it’s worth noting that, like professors, D&D practitioners are likely substantially underpaid with respect to their high education levels (this is actually theorized to be one cause of professors’ liberalism). There is currently an ongoing discussion on the NCDD listserv on including conservatives, and a session titled “And Justice for All” was the most popular one at the 2009 No Better Time conference. Prominent figures in the field frequently organize discussions on addressing inequality and discrimination within the community, such as Matt Leighninger, who has written about white privilege and the relationship between the D&D field and the related but substantially more diverse fields of social justice activism and community organizing. Nevertheless, only 6% of all the respondents in the survey thought that addressing oppression and bias within the D&D community and throughout society was the number one priority for the field.

      Enough of my thoughts. Did this finding surprise you? What do you and other visitors to the site think about the demographic differences we found?

      • Not really surprised… but I am a sociologist who studies inequalities as well. The over-representation of women is an interesting addition that would lead me to think that this has been devalued through marking as “women’s work” like nursing or teaching.

  6. I guess the point then, is that D&D is not free of structural inequalities and then practitioners should be taking this into consideration in all decisions. As D&D practitioners go about their lives then, they must also note that their minds are colonized by these institutions. This goes back to my comment about insularity. I guess my point is that the D&D field seems very hard to become a part of, that members already know other members and therefore form a sort of closed network where work goes to friends. This, of course, comes from personal experiences and I am not entirely sure how this closed network would be measured.

  7. I’m intrigued by these comments by daveo. Your point about jobs being somewhat protected during these tough economic times is a good one. I keep hearing of more and more D&D practitioners who are out of work or lost their jobs (amazingly qualified people), so it must also be a tough time to enter this field with such high-level competition out there.

    Although the D&D field may seem “very hard to become a part of” right now as a career, I wouldn’t call it a “closed network” by any means. Although some of the associations that Caroline and Francesca reached out to charge pretty high membership fees, everyone is welcome to join NCDD (the Nat’l Coalition for Dialogue & Deliberation) whether they can cover the optional $50/year dues or not. In fact, unfortunately for us, most of our individual members do not pay dues. Anyone who is involved in dialogue and deliberation work at any level can join NCDD, and most people who join feel like they’re part of a supportive network immediately because of our active listserv.

    And of course NCDD, IAP2 and many other groups that help people network in this field now have facebook groups and pages. That’s another absolutely free (and absolutely open) way to get involved in the broader D&D community. Facebook and other social media sites are a great way to attract a younger crowd of practitioners, at least in theory, and part of the challenge is getting people who join facebook groups and such to actually join the associations and networks that the more seasoned folks are already involved in so they are kept abreast of the same opportunities and discussions.

    I do agree that it’s more difficult in this economy for young people to become professionals in this field or to get paid work in this field. I’d love to see some discussion here about what could be done about this. But what did you mean when you said practitioners “must also note that their minds are colonized by these institutions”? I’d like to hear more about what you meant by that, and what institutions you’re referring to.

    • First, to me, a listserv or facebook group isn’t really a very useful network. Yes, people can be rapidly organized through facebook, lots of people find jobs through linkedin, but unless you know the person handing off the job, you aren’t going to be the one hired. Just my experience.

      Second, what I mean by the “colonization of the mind”. This is a broad issue I have taken with the left of late. It seems to me that many on the left are so concerned with making their agenda a reality that they stop listening to others. I see this too in the D&D community. While some find the new-age themes in D&D attractive for instance, others find them repulsive and impractical. My point is that, in D&D, I can see people so dedicated to an idea that they no longer believe there are any other ways to accomplish goals. This is a pretty loose description, not meant to be taken as a universal, but a caution against a common tendency.

      • Thanks for responding to my questions, Dave (I assume it’s Dave, anyway)!

        We’ve been trying to shift practitioners’ mindsets when it comes to the language they use to talk about this work (including making people aware that talking about D&D in a new-agey or touchy-feely way can turn a good number of people away… oftentimes, the people we need to include most because they tend to be underrepresented). Please check out the blog post at http://www.thataway.org/?p=1909 if you can; it introduces some of what I’ve been writing about this issue (we call it “framing D&D in ways that are accessible to a broader audience”) and links to a longer article.

        Are you a member of NCDD? If not, I welcome you to join!

        • Good. I am glad you are pushing on the use of language. Inclusion can be very difficult and complex and I think we have to be able to move between and across different frames simultaneously. There was a good article on framing from George Lakoff recently in which he noted that democrats have done well in framing issues in terms of hard facts and data but have not made the emotional connections. Without addressing the what, the how, the who, and the why at the same time, we will consistently fail to reach our ends.

  8. In response to today’s webinar.

    Solution to lack of diversity in the community:

    We can engage the real world more. We can go out in public with tasks (not simply topics) that appeal to a broad base and invite people to help problem solve. Topics like “race” and “gender” by themselves create an exclusive, divisive, and even demeaning frame. (Do people really want to be defined genetically rather than by their choices?) Issues like race and gender only matter because they get in the way of something else. That something else is what energizes a greater variety of people. For the record, I’m a white middle-aged woman with a masters degree, yet the dialogue culture seems a bit narrow even for me to fit in comfortably.

    Labels cause division. Focusing on common interests instead leads to cohesion. I’d love to see a discussion on how the Robbers Cave experiments apply in D & D. (Getting to Yes, by Ury and others, would also be a great resource to apply.)

    When we address diversity issues, questions that place us in externally defined groups (such as gender or race) are divisive. Questions like “Do men feel left out of the process if it is seen as feminine?” can be useful, but they come with powerful side effects. The polarity in the question immediately pushes people into camps because it defines us by externals rather than by interests and needs. The side effects need to be managed or the question is likely to do more harm than good.

    The frame that men want a focus on problem-solving made me think, hey, problem-solving, that’s my biggest concern. Yay, let’s talk about that…. But I’m a woman and she’s saying that’s supposed to be the guys’ issue. Oh. I’m not in that club. Then the follow up question was addressed just to the guys. Oh wow, I’m explicitly not in that club. My voice was put to the back. There was also an implication that I’m abnormal. Ok, I am, and I’m proud of that. But research tells us that most people (people more normal than I) want to feel normal and will change their behavior to try to be more “normal.” At the very least, people will be distracted from the conversation wondering whether they are normal when these stereotypes are elevated. I think it would be less distracting to just ask everyone about aspects of the dialogue that might turn off people or, more positively, what might make dialogue attractive to a greater variety of people. Then all of us problem-solvers would be welcomed to contribute ideas about ways to make dialogue processes less tedious and more engaging.

    If the concern was that men in the group wouldn’t share their perspectives, why not wait and see? If they don’t respond, call on them. It would probably be more productive than directing a question only to men. After all, you only asked guys who showed up and you want to know about the guys who didn’t show up. Odds are the women who showed know an awful lot about the motivations of the men who didn’t show.

    Instead of assuming that men like problem-solving and might be turned off by a “feminine” (i.e, not problem-solving) approach, why not just ask a question of people who like problem-solving? Ex.: “Do people who value problem solving get turned off by some of the processes used in facilitated dialogue?” My feminine answer to that question would be “Yes, yes, yes! Let’s address that.” I’d feel engaged and excited instead of let down at being misrepresented, yet again, because of my gender.

    If questions remain in the realm of gender differences, they don’t direct us toward shared interests. Instead they imply we have a genetic conflict. Gosh that seems pretty hopeless if that’s the case. Genetic conflict by definition is a mostly irreconcilable difference. The primary solutions to genetic conflicts are tribal warfare or medication. All other solutions get eliminated immediately because within a genetic frame, they seem useless.

    If dialogue can do anything to help us better address difficult issues, it is to teach people to look for our common interests so we can work together to generate solutions. Our old ways of focusing instead on identity keep us in the frame of using personal attack and blame. We can’t afford to keep doing that. It’s too disempowering.

  9. Kim:

    Thanks so much for sharing these comments, which are important (and very helpful for us as we learn how to present our research more effectively to practitioners). I take full responsibility for any facilitation failures on the webinar, as I am not a professional facilitator and have much to learn from this group on that score! As I said on the call, we hope that these presentations are just the beginning of a wider conversation, so I’m thrilled that you came to the site and posted your comments here for the larger community to see.

    Your feelings about the unhelpfulness of “identity politics” framings within constructive dialogue were certainly shared by others on the call as well. As sociologists, it’s important to note from the start that our perspective on gender is not one of biological determinism but one that understands gender differences as socially constructed and variable across different contexts. So we would very much agree that a claim that a particular group style is “male” or “female” is a form of essentialization. We also found in our survey that your interest in problem-solving was shared by a majority of the survey respondents, and I think we only scratched the surface in the webinar of how this problem-solving framing may lead to opportunities and challenges for the field in the future.

    Nevertheless, as sociologists, we are also concerned with stepping outside the issue of how to frame problems productively within a process in order to understands the kinds of exclusions that may be occurring in the larger society, and the unintended consequences for the larger field that these dynamics of exclusion may produce. So a concern with the potential “gendering” of deliberative practice–- and here we mean that the majority of participants and facilitators are often women, with some exceptions–- leads us to questions about why deliberation might be coded by potential participants or prospective facilitators as “feminine.” This is at odds with the assumptions of many researchers– and some folks on the call– that rational discourse of the sort promoted in deliberation is typically coded as “masculine.” So our calling attention to the issue of gender stereotyping was intended to question the processes through which this may be occurring, not to reinforce those stereotypes, which many in the field, including you, reject. As you point out, both of these types of framings can be a HUGE turnoff.

    Sociologists tend to pay attention to the patterning of (in our case, deliberative) groups’ demographics and the structural inequalities these may reveal– exactly the sorts of macro-level attention to differences that you argue may be unhelpful within the micro-level dynamics of a process focused on individuals’ unique contributions. So in this sense, as sociologists, we don’t have a lot to contribute to practitioners’ discussions about how best to accomplish problem-solving within the group, which is your area of expertise. These are the risks and rewards of presenting our research back to our subjects and trying to triangulate, sometimes awkwardly, how our different perspectives might shed light on each others’ different concerns and interests. But there is lots of research in deliberative theory that shows that more diverse groups tend to come up with qualitatively “better” solutions to problems. So we hope that by trying to understand the lack of diversity in some deliberative groups as sociologists, we might contribute to reflection on recruitment strategies or framings that might contribute to more effective problem-solving down the road.

    Let’s continue the conversation! Cheers, Caroline

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