Resources for Moderators

birdofparadise            — Web page created by Herb Klitzner —

Here are some FAQ’s regarding resources for moderators on how to develop a topic and facilitate a conversation about it:

  • What are some of CNY’s guidelines and accumulated experiences?


June 4, 2013 (Natalie Millman)Suggested Guidelines for a Great Conversation

from conversation cafe

A. Open-Mindedness: Listen to and respect all points of view.

B. Acceptance: Suspend judgment as best you can.
C. Curiosity: Seek to understand rather than persuade.

D. Discovery: Question assumptions, look for new insights.

E. Sincerity: Speak from your heart and your personal experience.

F. Brevity: Go for depth but don’t go on and on.

When the size of a group is 10-18, try to break into two
groups of 5-9 if you have two moderators available.
If needed, one can ask participants if there is an
experienced moderator present and willing to serve.

CNY Six Principles (goes on all conversation tables). SalonKeeper’s Guide (Utne Reader publication).
Meetup standards (various menu items at

EXPERIENCES:One way to think of a group engaged in motivated conversation, with its intensity and interplay is to use the analogy of water in motion, rocking back and across.People, including the moderator, swim through this water in motion, and experience its buoyancy, lifting up their own thoughts, values, and memory associations.The moderator experiences a significant momentum and force around him, which can be guided when necessary but must always be respected for its strength and human validity.

What are some source organizations that support and design Conversations?
(City Conversations)
(Christopher Phillips Model)
Socrates Cafe

NCDD (Dialogue)
As you may or may not already know, Philosophy Dinners is a non-profit, international experiment to bring strangers together to create a better sense of community.
Philosophy Dinner Logo
  1. NCDD (National Coalition for Dialogue and Deliberation)
  2. Socrates Café

3.Simon Fraser University (SFU) – Vancouver  (example of discussing a city issue)

City Conversations Program Committee – Simon Fraser University › … › Upcoming Events › City ConversationsShare

Michael is an urbanist and public policy wonk who brought the idea for City Conversations from San Francisco, where he is co-Chair of the Advisory Council for 

  1. Conversation Cafes
Includes the background of this structured form of conversation, with a list of existing cafe groups, and information and resources about how to start a new one .
The Core Principals of Conversation Cafe

The Café method has spread internationally.

     5. NY Philosophy Dinners — Facilitator Policy

No facilitation experience is required and no specialized knowledge is required on the topic.

In fact, all you need to do is to print off the discussion notes and you are good to go. Of course, the facilitators take part in the discussion just as much as everyone else, the only difference is that the facilitators help keep the conversation on track. (Herb’s bolding)

facilitator-policy _2_ (Link to full email notice)

3-D-graph-and-magnifying-glassWhat are some best practices for doing conversations that have been identified by research or by broader experience and analysis? Best Practices: A Higher Look at The Relationships of Technology and Conversations, and Political Polarity and Conversations (The Observations of Peter W. Cookson Jr. and Joan Blades)Most search results for Best Practices and Structured/Socratic Conversations are in the specialized areas of Legal Education and School Education. But two of the most interesting of the results are more broad-based, looking at the special worth of Socratic and structured conversations for two aspects of our current society: technology and political polarization.Peter W. Cookson Jr., of the Yale Divinity School, sees the opportunity of Socratic dialogues to temper the meaning and shape the rush of information today. Joan Blades, founder of MoveOn, sees something similar in terms of the creation of Civil Discourse about community issues deeper than partisan politics. Both articles, and their proposed methods, are very thoughtful, in terms of the social needs they articulate.Their thoughts are excerpted in the menu item Moderator Blog.  Links are given below to their full articles: PETER W. COOKSON Jr. — EDUCATIONAL LEADERSHIP (ASCD journal) 2009 | Volume 67 | Number 1
Teaching for the 21st Century Pages 8-14What Would Socrates Say?Peter W. Cookson Jr.When technology pairs up with Socratic inquiry, students have an opportunity to start a purposeful conversation—with the world.JOAN BLADES –LIVING ROOM CONVERSATIONS
“Open Your ears. Open your mind. Open your home.” Next Citizen’s Movement — Respectful DialoguePosted on December 8, 2011 by Joan
How can a moderator adapt a traditional format (e.g. book discussion group or lecture/discussion) to a CNY conversation format?Converting a book discussion to a structured conversation.Time-Temperature-Curves A quick piece of advice to get started:
Pull out from the book or lecture a set of key observations and conclusions, and build your leading questions around these.In some cases, it may pay to bring a second book or source into the conversation, to enrich the points of view present.Clearly, a conversation is a very different social communication than a traditional book discussion, in which everyone is expected to read the book first – a conversation uses the book as a reference point – of course, some will get and read it first, or have heard things about it, and can bring these learnings in to the discussion.Both forms of discussion have their place, of course. Our form, the structured conversation, is more projective of individual expressions of values and life experience, which is our ultimate goal to hear, and which lies along the social growth dimension.
What are Main Questions (i.e. Leading Questions), and how can you use them to navigate a topic and to catalyze involvement?Variations-in-Approaches-swarm-of-arrows PURPOSE:Main Questions punctuate the topic and are signposts to its dimensions. They serve to get the participants’ imagination working and connect with their real lives, with specific events, feelings, and discoveries, working as a pipeline, eventually to bring these elements into the discussion.GUIDELINES:Having 4 to 8 questions ready is advisable. They should be part of the detailed announcement for the conversation.FUNCTION:The questions can be used sequentially, randomly, or selectively, as needed to keep the discussion fresh, purposeful, challenging, and satisfying. They are also ways to get to know your neighbors at the table better.

2 thoughts on “Resources for Moderators

  1. BRAVO!, Herb. You have created a wonderfully attractive, knowledgeable, inviting, and serviceable resource for conversation-makers! THANKS from the community for this generous and inspiring on-line handbook!

  2. Pingback: America’s Direction: What Values & Whose Interests Should Guide Our Choices? | Conversations New York

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