At San Diego’s 2017 Restoring Respect Conference held at the University of San Diego, Kim Quinney reflected on how the San Diego Deliberation Network was formed, citing the benefits and challenges of launching a collaborative initiative.
Building the Plane:
SDDN is a regional cohort of representatives from the major San Diego Universities. It grew out of an invitation by the Kettering Foundation to participate in Learning Exchanges with Centers of Public Life in 2014-15. Although not a participant in the exchange, Carl Luna acted as our captain/ point of contact.
We participated in the exchange, and we learned a lot about the Kettering approach to deliberation. We adopted tools, such as “naming and framing” an issue; relying on a document to provide context and possible options with regard to resolving that issue (an Issue Guide) and best practices for facilitating deliberation.
The only way to fly the plane is to fly the plane. The only way to do deliberative democracy is to do deliberative democracy.
At Kettering, we began to draft plans for flying, long before we were off the ground. But the only way to fly the plane is to fly the plane. The only way to do deliberative democracy is to do deliberative democracy. Deliberation demands significant planning, and logistics, and organizing. But there is no deliberation without people in the room DOING it.
FLYING the Plane
So, we started flying, while still grappling with what we should be called, our vision and mission and objectives, and commitments from our respective affiliations—one of the most tricky pieces of all in launching a collaboration such as ours.
We decided that an appropriate name would be the San Diego Deliberation Network. And we collectively drafted our mission.
To promote civil dialogue and deliberation on issues that impact the community by engaging the people of the region.
We facilitated several dialogues, some to capture ideas for action on improving communities and others using Kettering Issues Guides on national topics. And we kept flying and we kept building:
- We had monthly meetings, then moved to quarterly meetings
- We launched a website
- We did more deliberations (e.g. on the national issue of health care, when use of alcohol & drugs become a problem, and California’s issues on managing our water).
- We rehearsed roles and responsibilities, and means for capacity building
- We drafted a detailed strategic plan
- And we did yet more deliberations…
Who we are is changing-- and NOT changing. Our mission remains the same, but our membership is naturally evolving. What had been a small team of founders is now expanding to include community members who are eager to participate in this work. We are now a proud affiliate of the Institute for Civil Civic Engagement at the University of San Diego.
What became clear to all of us as we managed through the various iterations of SDDN—what we are and what we are becoming—is that the very process of founding the collaborative was in and of itself a process of deliberative democracy. Process matters.