This paper by Cliff Figallo, Jed Miller and Marc N. Weiss appeared in the Spring 2004 edition of “Group Facilitation:
A Research & Applications Journal” by the International Association of Facilitators (IAF).
This paper describes the planning and creation of the Listening to the City Online Dialogues that took place between July 30 and August 13, 2002, shortly after the face-to-face event at the Jacob Javits Center. The participants in the 26 dialogue groups were residents of New York City and its immediate area. The dialogues focused on two things: the plans for redevelopment of the World Trade Center site and the surrounding business district and neighborhoods of Lower Manhattan, and the creation of a permanent memorial for the victims and heroes of 9/11.
The dialogues took place in small groups using a message board interface in which participants could read and respond to each others’ comments whether they were online at the same time or not. The “asynchronous” system allowed members to participate when it was convenient, and to spend time deliberately composing their responses. Half of the small groups were assigned an active facilitator and half were not. This paper describes the context of the event, how its producers prepared for it and how it actually played out, concentrating on what was learned about online facilitation techniques.