The People Speak, the Leaders Listen

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.     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,  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.

This entry was posted in Change, Community, Complexity, Dialogue, Government Improvement, Networks, Social Responsibility. Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to The People Speak, the Leaders Listen

  1. geoffreymh says:

    James Carse, in his great book “Finite and Infinite Games”, describes a way of looking at actions in life as being a part of at least two types of what he describes as “games”, finite and infinite. Both games are played within rules, as agreed upon by the participants; however, the meaning of the rules are different between the two types of games.

    Finite games have a definite beginning and ending. They are played with the goal of winning.

    Infinite games, on the other hand, do not have a knowable beginning or ending. They are played with the goal of continuing play and a purpose of bringing more players into the game. An infinite game continues play, for the sake of play.

    Between Future Search, the Public Conversations Project, the World Café, Open Space Technology, and many other mediating and moderating technologies, there is clearly a great deal known about the facilitation of dialogue.

    Most approaches involve carefully planned get-togethers,,, like these America Speaks events.

    But what happens after the big set pieces, the important face-to-face events? What happens when people go back to their day jobs, and the old culture and old ways of thinking start to seep back into their bones?

    That is a question I address with a new web-based technology called a Yala (see It turns a finite dialogue into an infinite discourse.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s