In September 2019, the DCI hosted Professor Sara Drury on campus. Dr. Drury , who is an Associate Professor of Rhetoric at Wabash College and the Director of the Wabash Democracy and Public Discourse, has done extensive work on promoting democratic dialogue and deliberation both inside and outside the classroom. Dr. Drury delivered a public lecture on “Can Deliberation Make a Difference? Lessons Learned from Wabash College’s Democracy and Public Discourse Initiative,” and met with the DCI’s leaders and working groups during her visit. She also met with Davidson science faculty to discuss a collaborative project she has been working on that is exploring different ways to effectively introduce deliberation into science-based courses.
In the fall of 2019, the DCI organized several open houses and discussion groups for faculty, staff, and students to learn more about the initiative and offer suggestions for its future directions and components. These events were well-attended and generated lots of ideas for future DCI events and activities.
In collaboration with several academic departments, campus offices, and student organizations, the Deliberative Citizenship Initiative hosted a Deliberation Facilitator Training Program in January and February of 2020. The program was open to all Davidson students, faculty, and staff, and nearly 30 students, faculty and staff participated in the program, which included four two-hour sessions. The first two sessions were facilitated by the Lee Institute, a non-profit organization based in Charlotte, while the second two sessions were led by Davidson faculty and staff.
The program trained participants in techniques to facilitate difficult discussions about political and social issues among people who may have very different backgrounds, values, and opinions. These techniques can help facilitators encourage deliberation participants to honestly, respectively, and productively engage with one another and seek out innovative solutions to the problems we face as a community and society.
The facilitator training program covered the following topics:
- How to Facilitate: Learning a range of facilitation approaches and skills
- How to Deliberate: Encouraging deliberative dispositions and skills among participants
- How to Build Boundaries and Bridges: Creating welcoming and well-defined deliberative spaces
- How to Host and Organize Deliberations: Convening deliberative events
- How to Utilize Expertise: Enabling knowledge-based and evidence-oriented deliberations
- How to Guide toward Action: Providing participants with pathways beyond the deliberation
It also included the following components:
- Open Minds Online Training: This series of five modules provide valuable background about the value and need for deliberation across differences. Each module takes 15-20 minutes to complete.
- Two 2-Hour Workshops: These workshops were led by an experienced facilitation trainer from the Lee Institute, a leadership and community-building organization based in Charlotte.
- Two Facilitation Simulations: These simulations demonstrated how to utilize different models of face-to-face deliberation, including National Issues Forums and Conversation Cafes/World Cafes.
- Deliberation Readings: These focused materials provided participants with insights about the challenges and opportunities associated with dialogue and deliberation.
Participants who fully completed the training program were certified to serve as DCI Deliberation Facilitators in upcoming forums that will be organized in the future. The skills learned in the training will also be useful in a host of other contexts, from informal conversations among friends and family to contentious discussions within businesses, government agencies, and advocacy organizations.