Whether you’re grappling with a divisive community issue, or simply want to include residents’ voices in city government, we have tools and resources that can help foster civic engagement.
Details About the Process
Our ultimate goal is to create positive community change that includes everyone, and we believe that our tools, advice, and resources will help foster that kind of change. There are many ways to engage the community to talk about and take action on various issues, and we encourage you to adapt any of our advice or tools to fit your community’s needs. At the most basic level, our advice focuses on three core components: organizing, dialogue, and action. As you dig deeper, you’ll find that we also have resources for other areas including facilitation, messaging, sustaining progress, and more.
During the organizing phase, we emphasize coalition-building, recruitment of diverse dialogue participants, message development, early planning for action and training of facilitators. In this phase, it is crucial to reach out to every sector of the population to ensure that everyone’s voice is heard.
A group of well-trained facilitators is a key component to the dialogue process because facilitators ensure a quality and equitable discussion in each circle. Facilitators need to be good listeners and relate well to many different kinds of people.
During the dialogue phase, people of varied ages, ethnicities and perspectives come together around a public concern in a space that fosters constructive, respectful conversation. Participants listen to each other’s hopes and concerns, build relationships, and generate ideas for action. Typically, several groups of 8-12 meet during a 4-6 week period.
The dialogues lead to the action forum, where participants come together to share their ideas. The group decides on which action ideas to move forward, and action teams form to carry out the ideas.
One of the most effective things you can do to strengthen your dialogue to change program is to create an accurate process for documenting and evaluating the entire effort. Dialogue participants, grant-making foundations, public officials, news media, and other people who can help you expand, strengthen, and institutionalize the dialogue to change program in your community will all want to know about your efforts and their impact.
Lasting change doesn't happen overnight. After your first round of dialogues, you may decide to hold another round to involve more people in the community. You may also want to create a group to help coordinate the implementation of action ideas that came out of the dialogues. Finally, you may be able to institutionalize this dialogue to change process in your workplace, a local nonprofit, or within your local government.
Ready to use dialogue-to-change in your community?
Explore Tips and Resources for Each Phase of the Work
We provide discussion guides, how-to handbooks, trainings, advice, and other resources to help you create a more democratic and inclusive community. We invite you to explore the resources on our website and adapt them for the specific needs of your community.
How We Can Help
If you are interested in organizing a large-scale, community-wide dialogue, we may be able to provide assistance in setting up your program. Our Community Assistance Team provides in-depth, ongoing assistance via phone, e-mail, and (at times) field visits throughout the duration of your dialogue to change program. We consider a number of factors when deciding which communities will receive this customized assistance.