Even the most extensive dialogue-to-change programs begin with small steps. This section will help you take those steps.
- Build an initial working group, and hold a pilot dialogue (sometimes called study circles). Make a list of ten to fifteen people who would agree that the issue you are working on is an important one facing the community. In this list, include people from diverse backgrounds, and people with different views about the issue. Make personal invitations to the people on your list. Invite them to try out one or two dialogues. Find someone who can serve as a neutral facilitator. This pilot dialogue will acquaint you with the process, help you examine the issue in a facilitated discussion setting, and strengthen the relationships among key people. After this, you will have a much better sense of the potential for change if dialogues like this were happening all across the community.
- Talk about what a dialogue-to-change program could accomplish for your community.
At the end of the sample dialogue, talk about the process, and about the potential for a program in the community. As a group, share your ideas about why it is important to engage the whole community in addressing the issue you’ve been talking about in this dialogue. It’s important for those of you who are interested in carrying forward the idea of a program to discuss what the broad goals would be. This conversation will lead you directly into the work of Step 2.
Questions for initial goal setting:
- What is happening in our community that concerns us?
- Is this issue relevant to a large portion of the community? Would all kinds of people come out for dialogues on this issue?
- What is the geographic area we are trying to impact?
- What are we trying to accomplish? Why would a dialogue-to-change program help?
- How could we describe the issue and the program so that it will interest lots of diverse people?
- What are the broad and specific goals we are aiming to achieve?
- Who should lead the program? Who else should be involved?
- Who is already working on this issue? Who else is affected by the issue?
- What is the right timing for this program? Are there other things going on in the community that would have an impact on the timing of the program?
- What kinds of resources will it take to organize the program?
A note about discussion materials: Obviously, you’ll need some discussion materials for this first session. If you will be discussing an issue for which Everyday Democracy has a guide (see the Discussion Guides page), you are welcome to download and photocopy our guides, or order printed copies. If you are discussing an issue for which there is no pre-existing guide, see page 13 of Organizing Community-Wide Dialogue for Action and Change.
The basics of dialogue to action | Next: Build a strong and diverse team
Note: These pages are adapted from Organizing Community-Wide Dialogue for Action and Change. You may download this guide in PDF format at no charge, or order printed copies for a nominal fee.