Much of the Connect the Dots conference I am attending deals with the idea of deliberative democracy, or the notion that citizens must take responsibility for their government by coming together, dialoging on complicated topics, and reaching a conclusion that will provide the basis for good public policy. These deliberations, or dialogues, are a key cog in this concept, and thus, the ability of the moderator/facilitator of these events to set the right tone is crucial. I am excited to be receiving training as a moderator/facilitator from a few of the break-out sessions here.

One of my struggles in this process, the decision-making power I enjoy as a moderator, is rooted in my concern that my actions will silence someone’s voice. For example, if I am being a good moderator, I am making efficient use of our time, being sure to move on to other questions/topics in a timely manner. However, in doing so, there may be times where I unintentionally silence someone else, affecting their experience with this kind of exercise, potentially for the long term. In addition, it’s my job as the moderator to decide whether a comment needs further probing or whether or not I need to make sure the time is used by as many participants as possible. These conflicts rest upon larger tensions present in many different areas in our society: valuing the individual and the additional time it takes to do this versus valuing efficiency at the risk of alienating some.

I hope to improve upon this skill this semester as I refine my moderation style. I am thoroughly enjoying all the tips, strategies, and skills I am picking up at this conference, and I am eager to implement them with students with whom I work at my institution.