News Features

ICDD Presents at Public Issues Forum Facilitation Workshop in Canada

K-State Engagement E-News, Fall 2008 Special Edition (PDF)

by Jenny Barnes

David Procter speaks with conference attendants at the Public Issues Forum Facilitation workshop in Saskatchawan, Canada in June 2008.

David Procter speaks with conference attendants at the Public Issues Forum Facilitation workshop in Saskatchawan, Canada in June 2008.

Public Issues Forum Facilitation is a process that brings people together and encourages constructive conversations around important issues. Facilitating public issues forums is a skill set that has value everywhere in the world, though practicing those skills is not always advisable.

In June 2008, David Procter, director of Center for Engagement and Community Development, and Dan Kahl, extension liaison, hosted a workshop in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan Canada to participants from around the world for a pre-conference workshop of the 2008 Community Development Society Conference. The workshop, titled Public Issues Facilitation, provided participants both conceptual planning details and skill development exercises.

"One of the things that really struck me was how, even though we had thought through our examples and presentation in light of appropriateness to the audience, there were some underlying ideologies that we did not even consider," Kahl said.

For example, in visiting over lunch with some conference participants from Zimbabwe, it became very clear to Procter and Kahl that what the workshop was encouraging people to practice would be a death wish in some countries. Inviting the public to have voice and participate in identifying, defining and resolving issues is a very democratic process.

Kahl said, "While I recognized that going in, the freedoms that come with a democratic government really hit home while visiting with people who did not have the same freedom under their government systems."

The day-long workshop involved about 20 participants from the United States, Canada and Australia. Participants had an opportunity to learn about forum preparation and framing, as well as facilitation best practices. In an afternoon practice session, participants were also able to test their group facilitation skills and receive feedback from the instructors and others.

The Institute for Civic Discourse and Democracy offers a more in-depth version of this workshop at Kansas State University each year. The next workshop will be held January 12-14, 2009 at the KSU Alumni Center. For more information visit their Web site.