Forums proceed in a deliberate manner. Facilitators welcome the participants and introduce the subject. The forum begins with what we call "the personal stake." Prior to engaging in dialogue about the issue, everyone is given the opportunity to share why the issue is important to them. "What makes this issue real for us?" The forum continues with equal time given to each of three or four distinct approaches to addressing the issue where the participants weigh specific action ideas and the corresponding consequences. After facilitating dialogue around each approach, the facilitator asks, "Which ideas generated some agreement?" "Did we find any common ground?" "What might we recommend to decision makers?" "Are there areas where we could not agree and why?" Were we missing key people or perspectives in our group?"

Facilitating teams have time keepers as well as recorders who try to capture the highlights of the dialogue with special attention to common agreement and disagreement. Once the common ground ideas are agreed upon, the facilitators may give participants the opportunity to place dots on particular actions. This "dot voting" offers another visual illustration of the group's dialogue.

 

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