Plan the Kickoff
At the beginning of a round of dialogues, a public kickoff event helps call attention to the program, builds enthusiasm, and drums up more participants. It marks the beginning of a widespread community dialogue that will lead to action and change.
You can galvanize a program by filling a room with all kinds of community people who care about an issue and who want to work with others to make a difference. Use the kickoff to show how broad your support is – public officials, leaders, and everyday people from all over the community.
This is your chance to send a message that people don’t have to be experts on the issue in order to take part, and to make it clear that all points of view are welcome. At its best, a kickoff shows people that a dialogue-to-change program provides a way to play an active role in the community – to be part of something that is larger than themselves.
Set a date.
Choose a date that is fairly close to the beginning of the dialogues – a week to ten days beforehand. The goal is to focus the community’s attention and draw more participants. Hold the kickoff at a central location and a convenient time of day for attendees and the media.
Plan the event.
- Invite well-known community leaders to speak in favor of the program. The best testimonials come from people who have participated in pilot dialogues.
- Ask someone to explain what the dialogue-to-change program is and how it will work including timing, location of dialogues, and plans for the action forum.
- Invite someone who has taken part in pilot dialogues to talk about their experience.
- Bring in a keynote speaker or a performer who can draw a large audience and inspire them to think about the issue and why their participation is important.
- Demonstrate the process, and, if possible, give the audience a chance to break out into small groups and try it.
- Allow time for questions and answers.
- Invite people to sign up for the coming round of dialogues. Make sure that the sign-up tables are clearly visible.
- Provide food, and time for fun and socializing – before or after the event, or both!
Promote the event.
- Invite the media and help reporters to get the information they need.
- Advertise the kickoff widely ahead of time. Try to create a sense of excitement and anticipation. Remember, you want the entire community to know that something really important is beginning – something that everyone will want to be part of.
Recruiting facilitators | Next: Find sites and handle logistics
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.