Author Biography

Renee Guarriello Heath is a professor of communication studies interested in interorganizational partnerships, dialogue, and democratic practices in the workplace. She has published numerous articles on the subject and is a co-editor and author of two books pertaining to collaborative communication. Ninon Lewis is a project manager for the Institute for Healthcare Improvement. She facilitates and provides training on dialogic and collaborative practices across interorganizational partnerships. Brit Schneider and Elisa Majors work in the nonprofit sector and higher education, respectively.


The present interpretive case study examined how an interorganizational partnership facilitating five large-scale public dialogues on childhood obesity, held throughout the United States, carried out its commitment to engage nonexperts in solutions. Leaders of the Shaping America’s Youth collaboration, believed the wisdom of crowds is facilitated through discussion. Accordingly this study has implications for deliberative practice as it provides a heuristic for eliciting the voice of nonexperts. In particular we describe empirically grounded dialogic principles that underlay a successful participation process: voice, diversity, transparency, preparedness, and neutrality. Additionally, the study documents perceived outcomes linking dialogic process and product by identifying changes in the rules and resources available to the public in light of the problem, including local and state policy level changes, and strengthened relationships and credibility with the media and funders. Finally, the case challenges theoretical assumptions about the wisdom of crowds as simply an aggregate of individually held knowledge.