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Citizen Discussions FAQs

Numerous questions have arisen regarding the nuts and bolts of planning for and then conducting a citizen discussion.  Theses discussion can seem rather daunting, particularly if engaging in community discussions is outside of your experiential range.  So far, Jack has done a couple of these, Matt has done one, and Maria is planning one.  I have done quite a few citizen discussion, as has Dennis (who has done more than any of us has and who has also trained many people to facilitate these discussions).  Adolf has been doing several of these discussions since moving to Boston and is becoming quite adept at working with an existing organization to plan a citizen discussion.  Everyone that does one citizen discussion nearly always goes on to facilitate others.  There is something really energizing about conducting a discussion with fellow citizens who are participating simply because they are interested in (or want to learn more about) the topic, and so we hope that you will consider doing one of these discussions (it may understandably be easier to do one in the summer).

Within the materials you received in Madison was a guidebook to conducting citizen discussions.  This has lots of useful information.  Dennis and I have also posted on-the-ground pointers to the Perspectives Blog (here on the IF site) based upon our experience.  Mine is essentially a “kick-start” guide, and Dennis’ is more a nuts and bolts troubleshooting tool.  I would also encourage you to talk with your fellow faculty who have done or are planning a discussion.

A few specifics on planning for and reporting upon these discussions:

(1) I will be serving as the reporting conduit for these discussions, as they are conducted by faculty.  Since I already interact with each of you quite extensively with regard to your courses, this seemed the most expedient approach.  Please send me a quick email if you are planning to conduct a discussion.  Tell me when you plan to do the discussion, how many people will attend, and where I should send the discussion reports.  I am happy to help you sort out any concerns or questions you might have, but feel free to discuss those with anyone that might be about to help guide you.  Just be sure to send me the basic plan so that I know you are doing the discussion and can get the necessary materials to you.

(2) As you conduct your discussions, be sure to save receipts for your group’s meals, etc.  At the end of the discussion (or on a rolling basis, if necessary), you should use the form that Pete posted to request reimbursement for your expenses.

(3) When you have finished your discussion, please ask your participants to complete the participant debriefing survey on Survey Monkey (Link:  http://www.surveymonkey.com/s/BVV52ZR).  We also ask that you, as the facilitator, complete the facilitator debriefing survey at:  http://www.surveymonkey.com/s/R2G9JT9.  Finally, we ask that you write a short “impressions” summary of the discussion– what was interesting, what did you and/or participants seem to get out of the discussion, what (if any) stumbling blocks did you hit, how engaging were the possibilities, would you do it again, etc.  It might be easiest to make a few notes at the end of each meeting and then write these up at the end of the discussion.  We ask some of the questions you might address in your final summary in our facilitator debriefing, but we find that having facilitators put their experiences into their own words tells us things we might not even have thought to ask.  You should send this summary narrative to me at [email protected]

(4) Once you have completed the reporting, I will request that the Parkersburg office send you the $1000 honorarium we offer in compensation to our facilitators for their time and efforts.

Even if you are not planning to do a discussion until summer, it would be terrific if you could let me know your target start date– just so we know what everyone might be planning.  If you find that you enjoy doing these discussions, you are welcome to do as many as you would like (some ’06 faculty have done several and continue to do more).

Best, Sue

PS– You and your participants will need a passcode when using the Survey Monkey system, so that we can keep data sorted by discussion, facilitator, and topic.  On November 2, 2009, I sent an email, “Using Survey Monkey for Citizen Discussion Debriefings– For Facilitators,” to all of you.  It has instructions as to what your passcode ID is and how to determine the specifics of the passcode for each of your discussions.  If you no longer have this email, please let me know and I will resend it to you.  Thanks, Sue