Small group discussions are at the heart of a public deliberation. Participants sit at a table together, express their opinions, hear ideas from other participants, and wrestle together with the issue at hand. Table facilitators and note-takers play an essential supporting role to help each group’s conversation effectively inform and contribute to the deliberations of the whole group. Each table facilitator and note-taker therefore has a significant influence on the quality of the deliberation and its outcomes. Yet there is much variation in how these roles are performed. This paper explores causes of and responses to this variation in order to advance the practice of intermediate and expert practitioners and note-takers of deliberative dialogue.
There are many guides and tip sheets about how to facilitate and record an effective dialogue but most of this information is focused on discussions that aim to identify and create greater understanding about an issue and its dimensions. We focus here on the roles of table facilitator and note-taker working with participants who are tasked with making decisions together, with intent to influence next steps, particularly in the context of policy making and/ or research.
Authors: Mary Pat MacKinnon, Jacquie Dale, Susanna Haas Lyons, and Fiona Cavanagh.
About Alberta Climate Dialogue:
Alberta Climate Dialogue (ABCD) is a community-university research alliance funded by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada from 2010-2015. Our team is exploring how innovative forms of citizen involvement and deliberation can enhance responses and potentially
shift the politics of climate change in Alberta.
By convening deliberations with partners and researching the process, we are able to test theories, better understand how to design citizen participation for maximum effect, and help create capacity-building tools for others. We seek to empower citizens to take action within their communities and give them the opportunity to make recommendations to municipal and provincial governments on climate change policy. For more information please visit us at AlbertaClimateDialogue.ca