Approaches to Community Engagement and the Generation of Community
A companion document to
"Functions that Make
Up Community Intelligence"
"A map of Community
Intelligence and some of its important constituents"
There are hundreds of ways to engage citizens and stakeholders
creatively in dialogue, deliberation, shared reflection and action
to improve the conditions and capacities of their community. The
45 methods described below exemplify approaches that can improve
the capacity of our community to generate collective intelligence
and wisdom to apply to its own problems and dreams. Methods such
as these are the seeds of wiser forms of democracy.
21st Century Town Hall. AmericaSpeaks organizes large-scale
forums engaging thousands of citizens -- both face-to-face and through
telecommunications links -- integrated with laptop-computer and
keypad-polling technologies -- to deliberate on public issues and
provide input to shape government policies. Decision-makers are
often included as regular participants in these day-long deliberations.
Appreciative Inquiry. Instead of
seeking to solve problems, we can inquire into “the best of
the past and present” in our organizations and communities
– and then share what we find in ways that “ignite the
collective imagination of what might be.” See appreciativeinquiry.cwru.edu.
Asset-Based Community Development (ABCD).
Communities can grow stronger by exploring and organizing all the
gifts that citizens and associations (formal and informal) can bring
to their community life, rather than by treating people as problems
and clients. ABCD gathers data about this and makes the connections.
Canada's Maclean's experiment. "The
People's Verdict". A dozen ordinary Canadians selected
for their differences and meeting in the media spotlight for three
days with one of the world’s top negotiation specialists,
came up with a common vision for the future of their country. This
one-time event, organized in 1991 by Maclean’s, Canada’s
leading newsweekly, presages the potential for Citizen Deliberative
Councils at the national level. See www.co-intelligence.org/S-Canadaadversariesdream.html
Citizen Consensus Councils (CCCs).
Diverse citizens are convened to seek, with the help of professional
facilitation, shared understandings, solutions and wisdom about
social concerns. Their unanimous conclusions are publicized to their
entire community or country. CCCs are Citizen Deliberative Councils
that operate by consensus. Examples include Consensus Conferences,
Wisdom Councils, and Canada's Maclean's experiment. See
Citizen Councilor Forums. Officially
registered volunteer citizens agree to gather, when requested by
the public official in charge of their forum program, in small study
groups in their homes, workplaces, or public gathering spots to
study, discuss, and then offer advice to the government and community
regarding the issue they deliberated See kingcounty.gov/operations/auditor/communityforums.aspx.
Citizen Deliberative Councils (CDCs)
are temporary, face-to-face councils of a dozen or more citizens
whose diversity reflects the diversity of their community, state
or country. Usually council members are selected at random, often
with additional criteria to ensure gender, racial, socioeconomic,
and other diversity. Convened for two to ten days to consider some
public concern, they learn about it (often by hearing and cross-examining
diverse experts), reflect on it together (usually with the help
of a professional facilitator or moderator), and craft a collective
statement which they then announce to the public and/or relevant
officials and agencies (often through a press conference), after
which they disband. Examples include Citizens Juries, Consensus
Conferences, Planning Cells, the Canadian Maclean’s
Experiment, and Wisdom Councils. (See also Citizen Reflective Councils.)
and Tom Atlee’s The Tao of Democracy: Using Co-Intelligence
to Create a World that Works for All – www.taoofdemocracy.org.
Citizen Panels. A popular name for
Citizen Deliberative Councils, as explored by John Gastil in his
book By Popular Demand, which describes five ways to use
them to establish real answerability in electoral politics and the
Citizen Reflective Councils. Another
name for Citizen Deliberative Councils, which emphasizes the fact
that some CDCs (particularly Wisdom Councils) tend to be more open-ended,
emotional and creative than the word “deliberation”
often implies. “Reflective” suggests both that they
are reflecting about their community and that their members reflect
(rather than politically represent) the diverse members of their
community. See www.co-intelligence.org/P-CRC.html.
Citizens Juries. The most basic and
widely practiced Citizen Deliberative Council, with 12-24 participants.
Pioneered in the U.S. See www.jefferson-center.org/citizens_jury.htm
and Ned Crosby’s Healthy Democracy: Empowering a Clear
and Informed Voice of the People. See also Citizen Panels.
Civic Journalism attempts to engage
people in public life by finding out what they are concerned about,
providing them with balanced information about the issues involved,
getting them talking about those issues, and reflecting what they
say back to the larger community in broadcast, print and online
media. See www.pewcenter.org/doingcj/speeches/index.html.
Community-Based Watershed Management Councils.
Stakeholders from public, private and nonprofit sectors come together
regularly to care for the watershed resources they all depend on.
The EPA has sponsored a number of these. See www.epa.gov/owow/watershed/lessons/ex5_3.html
for a local story and www.umich.edu/~crpgroup/sites.html
for national resources.
Community Quality of Life Indicators.
Communities around the world have developed local statistics to
measure their collective well-being, providing them with feedback
about how they’re doing. See www.co-intelligence.org/P-qualtylifeindicators.html.
Commons Cafes. Ten people are selected
from four very diverse groups (e.g., an inner city church and a
golf club) and convened such that one person from each group is
at each of ten four-person tables. Each table has cards with questions
about one’s life, which the participants answer, sharing their
lives with each other. Designed to humanize the Other, across boundaries.
Community Vision Programs. See Scenario
and Visioning Work, below.
Consensus Conferences. Citizen Deliberative
Councils that are much like Citizens Juries except (a) panelists
participate more in selecting experts to testify before them, (b)
testimony is taken in a public forum and (c) a panel’s final
product is a consensus statement. Currently the only form of Citizen
Deliberative Council institutionalized as a part of government –
in Denmark, where it was pioneered to advise Parliament on controversial
technical issues. See www.co-intelligence.org/P-DanishTechPanels.html
Consensus Councils bring together
the full diversity of stakeholders around a contentious issue to
agree on recommendations to policy-makers. These have existed for
several years in Montana and North Dakota, but a United States Consensus
Council has recently been established. See www.agree.org/resources/index.asp.
Consensus Process. A broad category
of processes that endeavor to weave the actual diversity of the
participants into understandings and solutions that make sense for
all those involved. See www.co-intelligence.org/P-consensus.html.
Conversation Cafes. Small lightly
facilitated gatherings held regularly in a specific public place,
usually an actual cafe, and open to the public. They usually start
and end with a go-round much like a Listening Circle, with the body
of the conversation being open dialogue. Normally convened around
a topic. Often a city or town will have many conversation cafes
people can attend. See www.conversationcafe.org.
Deliberation, Public. This means
that citizens are considering an issue carefully, hearing many sides
and considering various possible outcomes and trade-offs, in an
effort to come to useful public judgment about how the issue should
be addressed. This is the core of deliberative democracy. See www.co-intelligence.org/deliberation.html.
Deliberative Polling. Hundreds of
citizens are surveyed about an issue and then study it and deliberate
about it. They are then polled again. Repeated demonstrations of
this type have shown that people's views on an issue change when
they have a chance to learn and think about all sides of it. See
Dialogue. Increasingly this term
is used to describe conversation in which participants all feel
heard so they can actually learn and/or accomplish things together.
Another definition: Shared exploration towards greater understanding,
relationship and/or possibility. See www.co-intelligence.org/P-dialogue.html
which, among other things, provides a useful list comparing dialogue
Dialogue, Bohmian. A form of dialogue
in which participants attend to the assumptions behind their own
and each other’s responses and thoughts. This approach, founded
by quantum physicist David Bohm and spiritual teacher J. Krishnamurti,
often shifts conversation from an exchange of ideas to a shared
flow of meaning. See www.muc.de/~heuvel/dialogue.
Dynamic Facilitation (DF). An open-ended
and highly creative process grounded in the power of people feeling
really heard and following where their interest and energy take
them, rather than a pre-established agenda. Groups are helped to
wrestle creatively with difficult problems such that they often
stumble into truly innovative insights and solutions together. DF
includes a potent reframing of conflicts as concerns. It is most
powerfully applied to community, state or national affairs in the
form of Wisdom Councils. See
From the Four Directions. Leaders
involved in making a better world have gotten together in an international
network of self-replicating, intentionally diverse circles of support
and learning, designed to empower their capacity as servant leaders.
Organized by consultant Meg Wheatley. See www.fromthefourdirections.org.
Future Search. Representative stakeholders
are gathered together to review or co-create the future of their
organization, community or situation. They look at their shared
history, the forces currently shaping their shared lives, and the
visions they can all buy into – and then self-organize into
ongoing action groups to further the vision(s) they created together.
Holistic Management. Draw together
all the important people and resources relating to an issue to generate
clarifying holistic statements of their desired quality of life.
Take time to check all future decisions against that statement.
Intergroup Dialogue. People from
different social identity groups meet for a series of meetings designed
to help participants gain a deeper understanding of diversity and
justice issues. See igr.umich.edu/documents/Intergroup%20Dialogue%20Overview.pdf.
Let's Talk America. Local citizens
join in a bridge-building conversation about democracy and civic
concerns using Conversation Cafe and simple guidelines for hosts
and participants. See www.letstalkamerica.org.
Listening Circle. A group of 3-30
(and sometimes more) people sit in a circle and take turns “speaking
from the heart.” Usually the speaker holds an object (a “talking
stick,” a stone, even a stapler) and, when done speaking,
passes the object to the person on their left, who may then speak.
There is no cross talk or interruptions. If a number of rounds are
done, the dialogue tends to deepen. See www.co-intelligence.org/P-listeningcircles.html.
Listening Project. Trained interviewers
canvass a community with questions designed to engage people with
community or national issues. The role of the interviewers is to
listen well. People change during the interviews, often getting
involved in addressing the issues they discussed. See www.co-intelligence.org/P-listeningpjts.html.
Multiple-Viewpoint Drama. What does
a public issue look like when you see all sides in their raw, dramatic
expression. Anna Deavere Smith created two monologue docudramas
acting out the actual statements of people she interviewed who were
associated with riots in Los Angeles and New York City. This could
make the human complexity of any issue more real to decision-makers
and citizens in their deliberations. See www.co-intelligence.org/S-multipleviewptdrama.html
Natural Resource Leadership Institutes.
Diverse stakeholders from all sectors -- many of them long-time
opponents gridlocked over natural resource conflicts -- come together
for six three-day sessions to explore how to creatively resolve
such conflicts in their state. Their learning and their actions
often bring about a shift. See www.ces.ncsu.edu/depts/agecon/nrli/mission.htm.
Neighborhood Councils. A number of
cities have provided for their neighborhoods to get themselves organized
and officially recognized and to provide themselves with a forum
for deliberating about their neighborhood issues and maintaining
relationships with other neighborhoods and with city officials and
agencies. See www.lacityneighborhoods.com
for an example. These are also sometimes called neighborhood assemblies
(www.sfnan.org)– and much
excitement has been generated recently about the neighborhood assemblies
spontaneously formed in Argentina in response to their economic
crises. See www.commondreams.org/headlines02/0325-06.htm.
Nonviolent Communication. A process
through which one person can empathize with the needs underlying
another’s reactions and seek ways those needs can be served
that satisfy everyone involved. It can be done in group settings,
but even that usually involves working one-on-one. See www.co-intelligence.org/P-nonviolentcomm.html.
Open Forums. Arny Mindell believes
that the solutions to our conflicts and problems lie in the heart
of the disturbances we try so hard to avoid, and we can find them
there through a process that encourages all the voices involved
to really speak to each other, and really be heard. See www.democracyinnovations.org/openforums.html
and Mindell’s The Deep Democracy of Open Forums.
Open Space Technology. An amazingly
simple way for dozens or hundreds of people to get together and
talk about a topic they're all passionately interested in -- and
have it feel more like a coffee break than a conference. There is
no agenda other than the diverse workshops and conversations that
the participants create together at the beginning and then attend
and modify as the conference continues. See www.co-intelligence.org/P-Openspace.html.
Participatory Budgeting. In Porto
Alegre, Brazil (and more than 100 other cities), thousands of citizens
and NGOs (non-governmental organizations) participate every year
in deciding how their municipal budget will be spent -- and then
overseeing the resulting public works projects. Deliberations are
organized both by neighborhood and by topic (education, transportation,
etc.). See www.participatorybudgeting.org.
Planning Cells. Numerous simultaneous
25-person Citizen Deliberative Councils (cells), all addressing
the same subject. Participants spend much of their time in five-person
subgroups. The cells’ diverse final statements get integrated
into one “Citizens’ Report.” Pioneered in Germany.
Public Conversation Project. Pro-life
and Pro-choice activists shared their stories, beliefs and concerns
in non-polarized dialogues sponsored by some family systems therapists,
and achieved remarkable mutual understandings. The method has since
been used with polarized environmental stakeholders and other groups.
Scenario and Visioning Work. A broad
category of methods for creating shared visions or carefully considering
different possible futures. Evidence suggests that looking into
the future is one of the healthiest, most powerful things any group
or community can do. See www.co-intelligence.org/P-scenario-visioning.html.
Search for Common Ground. This process
uses personal stories, reflective/active listening, genuine curiosity/real
questioning, and searching for points of authentic connection and
resonance between one’s own experience, values, and ideas
and those of one’s adversaries. It helps adversaries focus
on truly hearing each other and discovering problems and aspirations
that both sides care about and can address together with shared
action. See sfcg.org/programmes/us/us_life.html.
Salons. Informal, often regular gatherings
of friends (or people in someone’s network) for high quality
conversation about things they care about, often over food and drink,
or tea or coffee, often in someone’s home. See The Joy
of Conversation: The Complete Guide to Salons by Jaida n’ha
Sandra and the editors of Utne magazine.
Study Circle. Ordinary people get
together once or twice a week to study public issues together, explore
what they think should be done about them and, often, take action
together. Study Circles are often woven into broadly inclusive community
programs around issues like race, police relations, and so on, which
sponsor dozens or hundreds of simultaneous Study Circles and bring
together all participants at the conclusion of the program. See
Wisdom Council. An experimental Citizen
Reflective Council using Dynamic Facilitation to explore whatever
a randomly selected group of citizens feel is important to them
and the community or country where they live. A new Wisdom Council
with newly selected members is held – ideally with great fanfare
-- every 3-12 months in that community or country. This ongoing
process is designed to build a strong collective sense of We the
People. See www.co-intelligence.org/P-wisdomcouncil.html
and Jim Rough’s Society’s Breakthrough! Releasing
Essential Wisdom and Virtue in All the People.
The World Cafe. Dozens or hundreds
of people show up for a conversation about a topic that matters
to them. They sit around separate tables (4-5 to a table) and, after
20-40 minutes of talking, they move to different tables to continue
the conversation. After a few rounds of this, a lot of interesting
ideas will have arisen and moved around the room. Highlights can
be harvested in a final session all together. See www.theworldcafe.com.
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