A few weeks ago I traveled to Washington, D.C. to serve as a facilitator at a unique event. The Mayor had convened an event for citizens throughout the District to envision future policy and outcomes as part of his “One City” initiative. http://org2.democracyinaction.org/o/5874/content_item/onecitysummit This event was designed and run by America Speaks, with whom I had worked before. You can learn more about their work at their website, www.americaspeaks.org America Speaks uses a combination of unique technology, facilitation, and subject experts, in their “21st-century town hall meetings.”
For the One City event, preliminary work had generated a short list of priority issues. Not surprisingly, these dealt with education, jobs, community and economic development. Nearly 3,000 people had signed up, and nearly 2,000 actually came on the day of the event. As a table facilitator, it was my responsibility to hold the safe space of dialogue open for everyone at my table. I had a wonderful random group of citizens. They came from different parts of the District, and had varied backgrounds in their own education, work, and lives. Yet they shared a deep commitment to the District of Columbia, and to building a better future together.
My task was easy on this day. My group spoke respectfully, from their hearts and minds. They offered many meaningful ideas, which were captured along with all the others in the huge convention center room. By the end of the day, through the combination of “theme team” idea sorters, and wireless polling, the entire roomful of ideas had been prioritized for each issue. The entire day’s work was summarized in a report, with freshly-printed copies given to each participant as they left. The Mayor assured the assembly that not only were their voices raised, but that the report assured their voices would be heard.
Now I, along with the thousands who came, will wait, and watch, and listen to what their leaders do next.