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Institute for Civic Discourse and Democracy

Public Issues Facilitation Workshop

The Institute for Civic Discourse and Democracy’s annual Public Issues Facilitation (PIF) workshop was March 2-4. Since 2006, ICDD has offered the public workshop every year but one. Plans are already underway for the 2016 workshop.

The ICDD PIF workshop is unique among introductory workshops. Participants devote hours to facilitation practice followed by reflection. The workshop covers the fundamentals of preparation and conducting a public issue forum, which include:

* How to choose a discussion method appropriate for the topic and the public forum purpose.

* Facilitation best practices, such as asking good questions and moderating small group discussion.

* How to recognize early signs of conflict and prevent escalation.

Each year there is something new. The recent workshop opened at the Marianna Kistler Beach Museum of Art. Museum director, Linda Duke, introduced Visual Thinking Strategies (VTS). VTS is a discussion facilitation technique designed to foster growth in critical thinking and other skills. Participants then practiced the method with art in the galleries. Also new, Kris Boone, head of Communication and Agricultural Education, spoke about facilitator self-awareness.

The ICDD mission is to build community capacity for informed, engaged, civil deliberation. The basic purpose of the PIF workshop is to increase participants’ knowledge and skills. Participants again indicated a significant increase in their confidence to facilitate a public forum.

Many of the 2015 workshop participants were Kansas State Research and Extension (KSRE) county agents. Two went from the workshop to facilitate small group discussions at a regional water supply visioning forum. Another KSRE agent put new skills to work at a forum the following evening.