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Hannah asks a very good question:
>
> Does anyone have any great ideas about how to best LEAD an online
> civic meeting in such a way that participant arrive at an agreement to
> achieve some goals by doing some activities in a set period of time?
>
 
I really haven't given it that much thought. I can't imagine it would be
much different than an in-room discussion, though, would it?
 
        First, you set out the issue(s) for discussion.
 
        Then you promote discussion by providing some
                provocative questions about the issue.
 
        Then you try to keep track of the threads of
                discussion and debate and gently reel
                back in the wandering threads.
 
        Then at some point, pre-determined, perhaps, you
                summarize the opinions expressed, and
                suggest places of overlap or consolidation.
 
        Then you restate the revised list and seek
                concensus/agreement.
 
As I jot these things down, it seems to me this would be hard to do
with more than just a couple of topics at a time. that is sometimes
a difficulty with COMMUNET; so many threads, so little time! Of course,
there are mail filters for some that help manage the traffic, and you can
easily zap stuff you know you're not interested in.
 
Another difficulty is this: what if you ask a question and no one
answers? Hmmm. Does silence mean assent? Does it mean the issue bores
people or they just don't have a strong opinion?
 
There must be seasoned meeting-runners online here who can speak to the
complications of achieving things online. From personal experience,
though I can say that we in Charlotte always get a lot of response to
contests -- so perhaps we could frame issues in the context of a contest! :-)
 
Steve Snow
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