america speaks

Diane Brandon diane at
Mon Sep 24 08:09:32 PDT 2007

Michael, An America Speaks event was held in Maine, USA a few years  
ago, to look at health care issues, as part of the development of a  
state health plan and health insurance programs. I volunteered to be  
one of the facilitators, partly on my own time, partly with my  
community coalition coordinator hat on.... let's see what my memory  
will dredge up!

I went through the training (perhaps 2 hours, plus reading the manual  
and all). There were two locations for the gathering of citizens, one  
in northern Maine (Orono, I think) and one in Portland Maine. They  
were connected with teleconferencing technology, so people in both  
places could see each other and the welcome by the governor and  
others was seen live at the same time.  (There was one winter date  
set, a blizzard hit, so it was postponed... I think just to the next  
day.... which reduced the numbers, but I think there were 150 or so  
at the Portland location.)

Everyone who came to participate was, ideally, to have read a booklet  
they had received in the mail some time before the event. This gave  
them the "facts" about costs, some "best practices" being used in  
other places, and a list of options they were going to get to discuss  
and vote on. (I did not like the preplanning of the voting options.  
In most cases, I could not have happily voted for any option  
presented, wanting to see combinations or options not on the list.)

In a gym at a community college, at round tables of 8 people, each  
person had a small voting pad (it looks like a handheld calculator,  
with a numerical keypad), and one person (a participant volunteer)  
had a laptop to use to take notes on what people at the table said.  
(What was being typed went live to a group of trained people in the  
room reviewing that input, and they identified themes that were  
emerging.) The facilitator did not have either one, but helped with  
the sharing and listening process. (There were also wandering techies  
who helped with any tech problems, and content experts who could be  
called over to explain health system stuff people didn't understand.)

It was a day (maybe 9am to 3pm) of rounds of discussion and then  
voting, with coffee breaks, bag lunches, and so on. I do love it that  
the issues caught on the laptops resulted in a couple of emerging  
themes being added to the preset voting lists, and one of the ones  
that came from the participants was a "top three" in the final  
voting. (I think there were questions after the event about just want  
the citizens meant when they used certain words.... maybe those  
catching the emerging themes misinterpreted what they were seeing,  
because of varying uses of the same words.)

It was fun to see the opinions of those in the room turn into numbers  
and graphs on the spot, but I didn't feel energized by the process,  
for whatever that's worth.

Diane Brandon
diane at

On Sep 24, 2007, at 10:01 AM, Michael M Pannwitz wrote:

> Dear colleagues in the USA,
> a couple of people in Berlin are looking into the possibility to  
> start something akin to "America Speaks" in these parts. There will  
> be a small meeting never knows what will come of it.
> Looking at the website of America Speaks gives me some information.
> Much more important to me would be to hear something from some of  
> you who have been part of this. After looking at the videos, its  
> already clear to me that its not closely related to open space. I  
> am curious what your impressions, experiences, opinions, etc. are  
> especially against the neutrality claim of America Speaks (whenever  
> I hear that someone is neutral it starts confusing the hell out of  
> me, for instance).
> Have a wonderful day
> Greetings from a warm late summerday in Berlin
> mmp--
> Michael M Pannwitz, boscop eg
> Draisweg 1, 12209 Berlin, Germany
> ++49-30-772 8000
> Check out the Open Space World Map presently showing 455 resident  
> Open Space Workers in 73 countries (working in a total of 132  
> countries worldwide)
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