Advancing Futures for Adults with Autism
Case Study (see bold paragraphs below)
"And perhaps what was most significant, they were able to see themselves as a large, whole, action-oriented community"
Over the next two decades, more than one million youths who are diagnosed with autism will move into adulthood. And while there is a history of funding special programs and services for youths with autism, there is almost no funding or services available for those individuals once they become adults. Many of the youths and their families will still need high levels of support once they are adults. So although the needs will remain the same for adults with autism, the services, support, and funding won’t be there. This is a situation of enormous impact on our society that will require a nationwide response.
In response to this situation a meeting was called: the Advancing Futures for Adults with Autism National Town Hall in Chicago. We supported AmericaSpeaks in designing a distributed large group virtuous meeting that brought together professionals, family members, and policymakers to have a conversation to generate strategies for providing services. More than a thousand people participated in the meeting, using three different “modes.”
Chicago was the central site. By concentrating about 30 per- cent of the participants there, we were able to provide a focal point. Important leaders in this movement were there, along with dignitar- ies (including the Mayor and Mrs. Daly) and the press. The live presentations from the stage took place in Chicago. The partici- pants, seated at tables of ten, discussed the issues and sent their thoughts in over networked computers. They voted their priorities with keypad polling devices.
Fifteen satellite sites around the country provided a national scope, ensuring a presence in every region. Each site had a good- sized group of participants. They watched the presentations from Chicago on large screens at their site through a webcast. They also held their discussions at tables of ten, sending in their thoughts to the central site, and voting with keypads, just like in Chicago.
“Virtual tables” allowed equal access for any individuals who wanted to participate from their homes or offices around the country. They participated in small real-time conversations over the Internet that made them equal members of the conversation being held in Chicago and the satellite sites. They watched the webcast on their own computers, broke into small groups of five or six participants on a special conference call platform to have discussions and send in their thoughts, and voted with keypads on their computers.
Integration of these three participation modes allowed all of the participants to share the same experience and be part of the same conversation and agenda setting.
- Listened to the same information being presented
- Spent time in small group discussions about the issues and sent in their ideas and feedback
- Got to see the rolled-up themes from the whole group’s discussions
- Had the opportunity to set priorities by voting on the results of their discussions
- Heard feedback from experts and leaders
- Got to see the real-time priorities of the whole group
Excerpted from Virtuous Meetings, Jossey-Bass 2014
Tunza International Youth Conference on Climate Change
Case Study (see bold paragraphs below)
“…even youths across the Pacific Ocean in California were able to be active contributors in a meeting centered in Seoul, South Korea.”
Who will suffer the cataclysms of Climate Change? Fifty-two percent of the world’s population is under thirty,1 and they are facing the projections of catastrophe within their lifetimes. And they are children of the Internet. It is easy for them to see that averting disaster will take coordinated global action. No single nation-state has the power to reverse the direction we’re headed in—it will take all of us (and them) working together.
But the dilemma for the world’s youths is that they have no voice at the table. Although they make up half of the world’s population and they will be the ones who experience the full effects of the changes, their age means that they have virtually no representation at crucial Climate Change negotiations.
In 2009, the TUNZA International Children and Youth Conference decided to create a voice for youths in international negotiations. Their goal at that time was to bring a loud, focused, coordinated voice of world youths into the UN International Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen.2 The motto of the effort was “Seal the Deal!” (in Copenhagen). Their goal was to create a carefully crafted statement representing the position that the combined youths of the world were taking on the issues of Climate Change. Once that statement was crafted, they hoped to gather one million signatures from youths around the world to present at the Copenhagen conference.
The effort was structured into three stages. First, input was solicited from youths around the world to create the original version of the statement. Second, a large group virtuous meeting was held to generate the final version of the statement. And third, there was a worldwide effort to garner signatures.
The engagement started with a website on which youths could post their thoughts about what the Youth Petition to the Copenhagen conference should contain. All of this input was rolled up into a two-page document that expressed what actions world youths wanted from national governments, from world citizens, and from the world’s youths.
For the second stage, we supported a group called Global Voices to pull off a worldwide, distributed, large group virtuous meeting. Many of the people working on the meeting from Global Voices were colleagues of ours from AmericaSpeaks, and the meeting was modeled on the 21st Century Town Hall method. The meeting was centered in Seoul, South Korea. At the central site six hundred youth from around the world, all under twenty-five years old, were brought together to review, strengthen, finalize, and endorse the petition. The six hundred in Seoul were seated in small groups of ten in the plenary, and they were joined by youths around the world participating in small groups from their own countries. These remote participants were able to view a live webcast of the meeting in Seoul and to send in their own thoughts and edits to the group that was editing the petition in real time in the meeting room in Seoul.
The meeting convened at 2:30 P.M. in Seoul, but that meant it began at 10:30 P.M. in Cuernavaca and 6:30 A.M. in Athens. The whole distributed group worked together for three and a half hours, and in the end (2 A.M. in Cuernavaca, 10 A.M. in Athens) they hammered out a final version of the petition that had everyone’s endorsement. The process was unprecedented and wonderful to be part of, and it caught wide accolades and coverage in the world press. (In the United States alone, it was covered by the New York Times, the Boston Globe, the Washington Post, and USA Today.)
We were in Seoul for the meeting. The Theme Team was set up there, and we were getting input streaming in from all over the world. The process worked the same as if all of the participants had been there in Seoul, but it gave the opportunity for participation to many youths who could not travel to South Korea. One of the remote groups met at the rural homestead of one of the authors in Northern California. Seven young people, mostly in their early twenties, gathered together and ate dinner, then got online with one of their computers at 9:30 P.M. when the meeting began (2:30 P.M. in Seoul). For the next three and a half hours they watched and listened to short presentations in Seoul about the different parts of the statement, and then, while the table groups in Seoul were discussing a part of the statement, they had a discussion about it around the table in Northern California and sent in comments about what should be added or changed. They had been sent a copy of the provisional working statement when they registered to attend, so they had that with them to refer to.
Between 9:30 P.M. and 1 A.M., they discussed what actions were needed from national governments, from world citizens, and from the world’s youths. Back in Seoul we were synthesizing all of the input together, and dedicated writers were reworking the text of the statement. In this way, even youths across the Pacific Ocean were able to be active contributors in a meeting centered in South Korea. This engagement starts to answer the question: How can you come to meaningful consensus effectively and affordably on a worldwide scale, in order to begin crafting worldwide solutions? The answer lies in good design.
A key factor is effective leveraging of new technologies and possibilities of the Internet. But to make that leveraging effective, the design has to take into account what can be accomplished at each stage of the engagement, and it must pick the tools and the processes that will have the most impact. The design process has to be responsive throughout. (We ended up changing the details of the final deliverable from the Seoul meeting at a highly charged lunch meeting the day before the session.) Effective design makes the costs manageable for even far-reaching engagements, because the Design Team is relatively affordable, and if they can foresee the needs of the participants and put everything necessary into place, the engagement can be executed with technological options that are in reality very affordable.
Excerpted from Virtuous Meetings, Jossey-Bass 2014