I have finally figured out what my role is for the CIR, but alas it ended very late last night (got home close to 1am kind of late). As I had feared, my role was not clearly defined with specific tasks and in a large staff of type A, get’er done type personalities it was difficult for the first few days to figure out what I was to be doing. However, now that it is all over I can genuinely say my role was to be the Moderator’s Assistant–maybe next time I will know to be that from the beginning!
In the first few days, I increasingly noticed that the moderators were essentially the masters of a three-ring circus and that from my vantage point I had a good eye of how to make the juggling just a little bit easier, so starting towards the end of day two I began taking ownership over some of the circus tent, things like maintaining the sticky walls (not a small job!), preparing groups for self facilitation, passing out all incoming information to both panelists and moderators, and just in general keeping an eye out for the welfare of the moderators. Since I’ve never been good at minding my own business (and I was a bit bored during a process where idle hands are really a dangerous thing), I began embedding myself in the discussions of the moderators, particularly in their planning stages of how to work with the panelists best. I was over-the-moon when they both old me how invaluable my insight into facilitating this group was becoming and how much of a natural I was at this sort of thing (second and third comment of this nature in the past few days!).
By the end of the first CIR, I was sitting in on the moderators-only debrief/planning for the next CIR to begin the next day. I was overly suggestions to improve dialogue around some of the logistical issues we faced (color of dots is surprisingly important!), as well as talking through some of the theoretical issues that had been discovered with the increased role of the campaigns and the side-effect that had had on citizen empowerment. Having finally found my role, I wish I could have stayed around for the next one or having the personal finances to go with the teams to either Colorado or Arizona, but alas my short time with Healthy Democracy is up… at least for now. Despite the reality not being as rosy as I had hoped, I still believe in deliberative democracy and I still think this is an incredible avenue forward in creating more informed, more adaptive, and more responsive public policy–it just might not be the untarnishable silver bullet I thought it might be. More importantly for me though I learned that I really can do this stuff (facilitation) in the real world, I am good at it–hell as three top facilitators told me this week, I’m a natural! That is the most exciting and inspiring message I could receive after a long, hard, and expensive first year of graduate school.