A community dialogue can be a strategic conversation with a few key people or a big gathering that involves many different people from a community. Simply put, they involve a series of conversations and learning opportunities on a specific topic, like community food security, and provide a space to hear different perspectives, critically discuss the topic, and plan ways to take further action in order to effect change. The format and atmosphere of dialogues can vary, and can take place anywhere from a kitchen table to a meeting hall. However, to have a successful community dialogue, the key is to have a clear purpose, a strong facilitation plan, a strategy to capture the discussion and share the learning, and debrief to support next steps.
|Title:||Planning a Community Dialogue|
Planning an effective community dialogue takes time and preparation in advance. This resource provides a brief description of community dialogues and outlines an approach to planning dialogues that supports participatory processes using the Chaordic Stepping Stones.
Our experience has taught us that calling upon the expertise of an experienced facilitator should not be overlooked, for they are an invaluable resource that can help to plan, deliver (or host) and even evaluate your community dialogue. We encourage you to draw upon the resources of an experienced facilitator or seek out training in the facilitation approaches listed below through Art of Hosting NS, ALIA Institute, New Leaf Social Innovation, and Tim Merry. This resource offers a brief description for a range of facilitation approaches that your hosting team may want to draw upon and links to additional information on the following:
- World Café
- Open Space Technology
- Pro-Action Café
|Title:||Capturing Community Dialogues|
An essential component of all community dialogues, regardless of the facilitation approach chosen, is ensuring the rich discussions and ideas that emerge are captured (a.k.a. harvested) so they can easily be shared with attendees. When planning your community dialogue be sure to ask at least one person to record notes from the discussions, take pictures and collect participants’ materials at the end of the event. These items can then be compiled and summarized into an event report, often called a “harvest”, to share with participants. This resource showcases a collection of harvest materials and templates to help you capture your dialogue.
|Title:||After a Dialogue|
Community food security is a complex issue. To effect change we need to have long term thinking with short term “baby steps” and bold actions. We need to build relationships, understand different points of view, dispel stereotypes, honestly relay ideas, and connect personal and public concerns to find solutions and build shared priorities.
Community dialogues need not be only onetime events, but rather a series of dialogues that build upon one another. Various dialogues can be held over time that take you from sharing research findings and giving them meaning through critical discussion, all the way to priority setting, policy change and other actions. Mobilizing specific actions will largely depend on available community capacity and leadership to follow-up with appropriate groups and to continue the conversation after an initial dialogue.
To continue to support conversations that speak to short and long term actions, a debrief session with the planning and hosting team will help capture any highlights or lessons learned, and help solidify next steps to maintain momentum. This tool is intended to help capture community dialogue process, outcomes and reflections that communities can learn from and build upon.