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“Chipping-In” as a Key to Developmental Citizen Discussion

A recently concluded “developmental” discussion of energy possibilities reinforced many of the lessons learned about the benefits of repeat participation of those familiar with IF process and materials. That same discussion series also reinforced the developmental benefit of bringing “fresh eyes” to the task of revisiting an area of concern and its possibilities. The new lesson learned in this series was the level of excitement and commitment brought to the task when participants know that their efforts will likely impact the reframing and editorial development of the possibilities.

This recent group of experienced IF discussants took us at our word that our possibilities are “starting points” for discussion, not commandments on a stone tablet. We can easily get stuck on the original content of a report because of pride of authorship issues or a sense of “an agreement” with a project panel to respect the sweat equity of their efforts.

I felt honor bound to respect the sweat equity of my Rewarding Work panels. In subsequent projects I have been open about conducting the panel discussions as one phase of an ongoing journey of exploration and development.

Participants in these experimental energy discussions clearly felt more engaged. One woman participant (a veteran of a prior project, and two citizen discussion groups) raised this engagement issue in the final session wrap-up, saying, “It was nice to be able to ‘chip-in’ and feel like the talk contributes to something that continues to grow”. That was the beginning of a group conversation on chipping-in and an initial list of insights about why participants find this type of developmental discussion invigorating:

  • There is a sense that participation will be meaningful to others and that participants are taken seriously.
  • Developmental discussion seems to reduce “distance” from the possibilities and brings out what participants really think, not just polite platitudes.
  • It seems likely to attract a more engaged sort of citizen who is looking for growth opportunities in public conversation.
  • It provides a project-like environment for those who are unable to undertake a long commitment to group discussion and an opportunity for IF to tap the expertise of busy individuals.

As my astute participant said, “If your discussions don’t impact where you’re going with the possibilities, how can you call this interactive?”.