Community Conversations

Community Conversations promotes thoughtful, engaged community dialogue, using a short text and a facilitator from the local community.

Our civic life is a shared endeavor that requires the informed participation of all citizens. Community Conversations provide arenas in which people come together for thoughtful discussion and dialogue about shared values as Americans—past, present, and future. Focused on central themes in American life such as service, freedom and democracy, Community Conversations allows New Yorkers to join in discussions that offer an alternative to received wisdom and provide an opportunity to take part in a shared national dialogue.

Community Conversations has been developed for three distinct audiences:

  • Community Conversations for Kids gives upper elementary and middle school students the opportunity to engage in meaningful discussion of a short reading in or out of school. These conversations are also appropriate for families.
  • Community Conversations for Young Adults engages middle school, high school or college students in a facilitated discussion of a short reading in or out of school.
  • Community Conversations brings together adult members of a group, organization or neighborhood to join in a facilitated discussion of a short reading.

To download a toolkit, register here.

Online toolkits are available for download according to topic and audience. Toolkits contain everything necessary for these “do-it-yourself” discussions, including: texts suitable for each audience; a set of sample questions; and guidelines for starting and sustaining good conversation. The Council also offers free facilitator training webinars.

Featured Sites

Tax-exempt organizations, including schools, in New York State can apply to be a featured site. Featured sites are eligible to receive $200 from the Council for hosting a Community Conversation. Featured sites are required to register their event and complete a final evaluation, including attendance information. Facilitators at featured sites are required to attend a 60-minute facilitator training webinar. Council staff may attend events at featured sites.

To become a featured site, please register your conversation event with the Council. For more information, see Featured Sites in our Common Questions.

How to host a Community Conversation:

1. Choose a conversation topic.
The Council currently offers conversations for many topics: immigration; democracy and civic participation; environmental stewardship; friendship (kids only); the Martin Luther King, Jr. Day of Service; the 9/11 National Day of Service and Remembrance; and After Sandy (adults only). New conversations are introduced periodically.

2. Identify your audience.
Community Conversations has been developed for three distinct audiences: adults and general audiences; teens and young adults; and children and families. For more information, see the audience descriptions above.

3. Choose a facilitator.
Host organizations are responsible for choosing a facilitator for their conversation. For more information, see Facilitation in our Common Questions.

4. Establish a date and time for your conversation.
For more information about scheduling your conversation event, see Implementation in our Common Questions. All host sites are encouraged to register their event with the Council. Featured sites are required to register their event.

5. Register your event and download a toolkit.
You can browse all toolkits from each conversation topic page. To download a toolkit for your site, you must first register with the Council. All featured sites must register their organization and their event date. Please note, only featured sites are eligible for the $200 stipend.

6. Attend a facilitator training webinar.
Facilitator training webinars are free and open to anyone planning to host a Community Conversation. Facilitators for featured sites are required to attend. A schedule of upcoming webinars is available on our Webinars page.

7. Prepare for and host your event.
The Council provides templates on each conversation topic page for flyers and other promotional materials. Make every effort to gather a group of at least 10 but no more than 45 people for your Community Conversation. For more information, see How do we gather an audience? in our Common Questions.

8 Follow-up.
Within three weeks of the event, submit an online evaluation. Evaluations are available on the Admin page. Featured sites are required to submit an evaluation.

We the People

This project is supported by the We the People initiative of the National Endowment for the Humanities.