News Features

Workshop trains participants to be civic leaders

K-State Engagement E-News, January 2008 (PDF)

by Stephanie Faulk

Participants engage in round table discussion.

Participants engage in round table discussion.

Every community faces important public issues. How those issues are discussed — whether through forum, city council or other means — has a tremendous impact. Public dialogue today is often filled with slanderous, mud-slinging comments; dialogue that, if anything, creates a greater divide. Individuals with the skills to coordinate and direct civil dialogue are imperative assets to communities and civic organizations.

"For our communities to move forward in a positive and productive way, it is essential to hear citizens' voices and understand how they feel about these important issues," ICDD Director David Procter said.

"The issues plaguing communities are often socially constructed, and there is rarely a solution that is acceptable for everyone," Procter explained.

Former Governor Carlin speaks to workshop attendees.

Former Governor Carlin speaks to workshop attendees.

Because these issues are sensitive and personal to all participants, ICDD suggests core principles of mutual understanding and respect, shared responsibility and voice for all. Public discussions should discourage personal attacks and ideological sloganeering.

Participants in the 2008 facilitation workshop learned how to host a public forum, looked at case studies of successful facilitated events, and listened to seasoned facilitators discuss strategies that really work. These sessions, combined with participating in a forum of their own, enabled participants to learn about and practice successful facilitation.

"Facilitation skills can be used in everyday life and in all fields," ICDD graduate research assistant Katy Rubiano said. "I know I'll have the ability to apply what I learned here in the real world."

ICDD has hosted facilitation workshops since 2006 featuring participants from all across Kansas as well as five other states including North Dakota, Nebraska, Texas, Wyoming and California.