Community Meetings: Facilitation Process

Community meetings aim at gathering expressions of hopes and concerns about issues raised by emerging (bio)technologies in genomics (such as stem cell research, biobanking, DTC genetic testing) nanotechnology, neuroscience and synthetic biology from various communities around Oregon.

Our meetings are part of a larger process. We're assembling a series of conversations on behalf of the Oregon Legislature’s Advisory Committee on Genetic Privacy and Research (ACGPR) relevant to its statutory mandate of public education and soliciting public values from Oregonians.

There are other important dimensions of the committee’s public accountability.  They include consultation with a variety of technical experts. They have an open door for input from legislators with an interest in the topic under consideration and from advocates, lobbyists, and organized civic groups. 

Geneforum’s meetings contribute to that whole process.  We don't offer technical "know-how" information.  We do offer important "know-why" information.


The discourse we have designed for these meetings has the following structure.

1. Setting the context

  • An overview by the ACGPR’s spokesperson describes in general terms the policy task of the committee.
  • This anchors the meeting discussions in the domain of genetic privacy policy as it is being addressed by the Oregon State Legislature at the present time.

2. Small group discussion of scenarios

  • Responding to scenarios stimulates thoughts, imaginings, and feelings in individuals.
  • The Table Leaders (TLs) help their group articulate the values imbedded in their initial judgments about the scenarios.
  • The use of flip charts at each table creates an external memory for the group. This technique allows individuals to experience the extent to which their hopes and concerns about genetic privacy are shared with others. This creates a framework for a discussion of the relationship of genetic privacy to the community’s common good.

3. Reporting from the tables

  • The Meeting Facilitator (MF) using a round robin technique leads the process of reporting from the tables.
  • Table Leaders make the reports.
  • The Scribe working with the meeting Facilitator captures on a “graffiti wall” the various ideas that emerge in the table reports. (A graffiti wall is a wide clear wall covered with flip chart pages.)  Like the flip charts at the tables, this graffiti wall serves as an external memory for the whole group.
  • The reporting process brings out shared perceptions of the common good among the tables as well as capturing unique insights.

4. General discussion

  • The Meeting Facilitator leads a brief period of general discussion after the reporting is completed.
  • This helps clarify thoughts and perceptions.
  • It also serves as a stimulus for new ideas not yet expressed.

5. Final “Thank you” from spokesperson

  • This closure statement reminds the participants that their discussion connects them with the work of the ACGPR.  It also invites their continuing attention to the long-term process of genetic privacy and its relationship to the common good of Oregonians.
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