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Organizing Community-Wide Dialogue for Action and Change

This is Everyday Democracy‘s comprehensive guide (2001) to help you develop a community-wide study circle program from start to finish. Study Circles (also known as dialogue-to-change efforts) are at the heart of a process for public dialogue and community change. This process begins with community organizing, and is followed by facilitated, small-group dialogue that leads to a range of outcomes. Study circles don’t advocate a particular solution. Instead, they welcome many points of view around a shared concern. Download (free) or order a hard copy ($30) from www.everyday-democracy.org/en/Resource.39.aspx.

This 157-page guidebook is full of tips and tools useful for anyone organizing larger-scale dialogue programs in communities, even if you’re planning to use a different form of dialogue.  The tools in this doc could end up saving you A LOT of time, and helping you think through what’s involved in running a community-wide program.

For instance, here are some of the sample docs included in the guide that you can modify for your own needs:

  1. Invitation to Coalition-Building Meeting
  2. Agenda for Coalition-Building Meeting (Annotated)
  3. Sign-up Sheet for Sponsors/Coalition Members
  4. Press Release
  5. Public Service Announcement
  6. Media Advisory
  7. Flier
  8. Talking Points on Education – Student Achievement
  9. Participant Questionnaire
  10. Report on Program Implementation
  11. Report on Program Outcomes
  12. Form for Participant Registration
  13. Agenda for Action Forum (Annotated)
  14. Invitation to Potential Facilitators
  15. Form for Facilitator Registration

Using this guide

Organizing a community-wide study circle program is a complex undertaking. Many things will be happening at the same time: coalition building, communication and publicity, recruiting participants, training facilitators, fund raising, planning for action, and more. This guide is designed to help you understand and carry out the many aspects of community- wide organizing for public dialogue and action.

Organizing community-wide study circles is not an easy task, but with a little help you can be successful. Many dozens of people – just like you – have organized successful community-wide study circle programs in communities all over the country. This guide includes their suggestions, experiences, and questions.

This guide can be used in several ways. Read through it to get an understanding of the principles of study circle organizing. Use it as you develop an organizing strategy, and keep it with you to refer to questions, tips, and sample documents on an ongoing basis. Share parts of it with those who are working with you to organize the program. (Remember, no one person can do this alone.)

Organizing community-wide study circles is more art than science. An effective program is organized to fit the flavor of the community and the specifics of the issue. Yet many organiz- ers have faced challenges similar to your own; we offer their lessons as a guide. Adapt their tools to meet your community’s needs.

Note: the Study Circles Resource Center has changed its name to Everyday Democracy.

Resource Link: www.everyday-democracy.org/en/Resource.39.aspx

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