Dialogue & Deliberation Resources for Libraries

Libraries Transforming Communities: Models for Change. Because our divided nation needs conversation more than ever. A free learning series from ALA and the National Coalition for Dialogue & Deliberation.

As trusted, safe spaces, libraries are ideal institutions to lead dialogue and deliberation efforts in communities — but with numerous approaches to choose from, it can be difficult to know where to start. 

The American Library Association (ALA) and the National Coalition for Dialogue & Deliberation (NCDD) have compiled this collection of resources to help libraries with their community engagement efforts. Whether you are just getting started or looking to expand your current efforts, we hope you will find this information valuable.

Interested in connecting with other like-minded library professionals? Join our Community Engagement Forum.

Questions? Contact ALA's Public Programs Office.

JUMP TO:


SEARCH FOR RESOURCES BY LIBRARY/COMMUNITY TYPE

For large or urban public libraries

For public libraries serving large
or urban communities

For academic libraries

For academic libraries      

For small, mid-sized or rural public libraries

For public libraries serving small,
mid-sized or rural public communities


 

SEARCH FOR RESOURCES BY DIALOGUE AND DELIBERATION MODEL

Conversation Cafe

Conversation Cafés are open, hosted conversations in cafés as well as conferences and classrooms — anywhere people gather to make sense of our world. At a Conversation Café there is nothing to join, no homework, no agenda, just a simple process that helps to shift us from small talk to BIG talk, conversations that matter. It is a 90-minute hosted conversation, held in a public setting like a café, where anyone is welcome to join. A simple format helps people feel at ease and gives everyone who wants it a chance to speak — it’s also fine for people to simply listen.

  • Use Conversation Café when: You want participants to learn more about themselves, their community or an issue, and/or discover innovative solutions to problems. 
  • Topics suited for this model: Nearly anything! It is particularly suited for exploring topics (e.g. community, love, death), or for processing events or issues, like instances of violence or other crises in a community. 
  • Why we chose this model: This is an open-source, simple method, which allows for it to be adapted to whichever issue or topic is timely or desired. With training, libraries can run this kind of dialogue using minimal resources — which makes it particularly ideal for the smaller and rural libraries.

Essential Partners: Bold Explorations in CommunityEssential Partners’ method, called Reflective Structured Dialogue, helps people with fundamental disagreements over divisive issues develop the mutual understanding and trust essential for strong communities and positive action. It draws on strategies developed by family therapists to promote effective communication in the midst of painful differences. The method also incorporates insights and tools from mediation, interpersonal communications, appreciative inquiry, organization development, and psychology and neurobiology.

The model is characterized by a careful preparatory phase in which all stakeholders/sides are interviewed and prepared for the dialogue process. This approach enables participants to share experiences and explore questions that both clarify their own perspectives and help them become more comfortable around, and curious about, those with whom they are in conflict.

  • Use Essential Partners’ Reflective Structured Dialogue method when: There is a need to resolve conflicts, encourage community healing after a crisis or trauma, or improve relations among groups in your community. 
  • Topics suited for this process: Political polarization, Jewish-Muslim relations, race relations, and other value-based conflicts.
  • Why we chose this model: This method offers an approach to conflict resolution that seeks to restore trust, gain understanding and move toward collaborative action. This allows a campus community to engage deeply with one another on issues where there is great tension, and also could serve as a tool for thorough exploration of diverse perspectives on an issue.

Everyday DemocracyEveryday Democracy's Dialogue to Change process encourages diverse groups of people to come together, engage in inclusive and respectful dialogue, and find common solutions to community problems. Everyday Democracy’s process is suited for communities that want to build trust, relationships, and collaboration among residents and that want to examine issues of institutional racism and socioeconomic and other disparities.

The dialogues consist of groups of 8 to 10 people from different backgrounds and viewpoints who meet several times to talk about an issue. These community dialogues create spaces in which everyone has an equal voice and people try to understand each other’s views. They do not have to always agree with each other. The idea is to share concerns and look for ways to make things better. In its Dialogue to Change process, Everyday Democracy places a great deal of importance to using a “racial equity lens” at every stage of the process to ensure inclusiveness and that outcomes do not perpetuate or create new, but rather remove existing, disparities.

A trained facilitator drawn from the community helps the group focus on different views and makes sure the discussion goes well and that participants contribute action ideas. In a large-scale (or community-wide) dialogue program, people all over a neighborhood, city, county, school district or region participate in such dialogues over the same period of time. At the end of the dialogue rounds, participants come together in a large community meeting to work together on the action ideas that emerged from the dialogues.

  • Use Everyday Democracy's Dialogue to Change process when: There is a need or desire to empower community members to solve complicated problems and take responsibility for the solutions.
  • Topics suited for this model: Community issues such as racism, violence, regional sprawl, and more. Any issue where community members need to be part of crafting a solution.
  • Why we chose this model: This approach brings together people both in smaller study circles, as well as in larger community gatherings. It's well suited for larger communities who need both the in-depth conversations in a smaller group and the larger community engagement to talk about ideas emerging from the smaller groups. It aims to result in action and change efforts.

Future SearchUsed by communities and organizations, Future Search is a unique planning method that enables large, diverse groups to validate a common mission, take responsibility for action, and develop commitment to implementation. The meeting is task-focused. It brings together people from all walks of life into the same conversation — those with resources, expertise, formal authority and need. People tell stories about their past, present and desired future. Through dialogue they discover their common ground, and then they make concrete action plans.

The meeting design comes from theories and principles tested in many cultures for the past 50 years. It relies on mutual learning among stakeholders as a catalyst for voluntary action and follow-up. People devise new forms of cooperation that continue for months or years.

  • Use Future Search when: The method is especially useful in uncertain, fast-changing situations when it is important that everyone have the same large picture in order to act responsibly.
  • Topics suited for this model: Housing, employment, transportation, education, and more!
  • Why we chose this model: This is a method for strategic planning, which helps communities develop cooperative plans. Particularly for a smaller-sized community, libraries could serve as a facilitative leader for conversations in the community where plans need to be developed, as they are a key resource and gathering place.

Harwood InstituteThe Harwood Institute for Public Innovation’s practice of Turning Outward is a step-by-step process intended to encourage leaders to use the community, rather than your conference room, as the reference point for your choices and judgments. Turning Outward entails taking steps to better understand communities; changing processes and thinking to make conversations more community-focused; being proactive to community issues; and putting community aspirations first.

The Turning Outward approach involves asking the right questions to find out what your community really wants, and bringing together the right teams to help make those dreams a reality. 

  • Use Turning Outward when: There is a desire to identify and learn more about your community’s needs and desires. Libraries around the country are using the approach to better understand their communities and to bring about positive change.
  • Topics suited for this model: Any conversation where community members are being tasked with exploring their aspirations, concerns, and what steps it might take to achieve those aspirations. This can apply to a variety of topics.  
  • Why we chose this model: This model has been crafted to help libraries strengthen their role as community leaders. It empowers libraries to lead the way in helping their communities identify the changes they would like to see, and further empowering the community to take action toward those changes. 

National Issues ForumsNational Issues Forums offer citizens the opportunity to join together to deliberate, to make choices with others about ways to approach difficult issues and to work toward creating reasoned public judgment. National Issues Forums is known for its careful issue framing and quality issue guides, which outline three or four different viewpoints.

Forums are neutrally moderated in a way that encourages positive interaction between people who are not expected to agree, but are encouraged to find a shared direction. For two or three hours, participants are led by a neutral moderator who encourages exploration and evaluation of several possible solutions to the issue at hand. Every solution comes with a set of costs and consequences that must be thoroughly measured. Only then do you know which costs participants are willing to bear. 

  • Use National Issues Forums when: You want to encourage exploration of tough public problems in increase public knowledge of the issue, and/or you wish to influence public decisions and policy. 
  • Topics suited for this model: Health care, immigration, policing, substance abuse, energy, climate change and more! National Issues Forums has materials in a variety of topics, including historical frameworks for reflecting on big issues in history.
  • Why we chose this model: This approach to deliberating the tough issues of today is already used in academic settings across the country to engage students and the broader campus community. It allows for deep exploration and evaluation of the options available to address specific issues, which gets participants thinking more deeply about the issue and what is at stake.

The World CafeWorld Cafés enable groups of people to participate together in evolving rounds of dialogue while at the same time remaining part of a single, larger, connected conversation. Small, intimate conversations link and build on each other as people move between groups, cross-pollinate ideas and discover new insights into questions or issues that really matter in their life, work or community. World Café-style conversations are a creative process for leading collaborative dialogue, sharing knowledge and creating possibilities for action in groups of all sizes.

In a World Café, participants sit four or five to a table and have a series of conversational rounds about a question that is personally meaningful to them. After several rounds, each table reports out their themes, insights and learning to the whole group, where it is captured on flip charts or other means for making it visible, allowing everyone to reflect on what is emerging in the room.

  • Use World Café when: You want to encourage exploration of a topic, exploration of participants’ own views and experiences as well as the experiences of others, and/or to explore and develop innovative ideas and solutions.
  • Topics suited for this model: A whole range of topics can be adapted to a World Café process. You can explore topics important to your community, such as immigration and community building, religion, as well as planning issues, land use and more.
  • Why we chose this model: This collaborative dialogue method brings together smaller and larger groups of people in a series of small, conversational rounds. This allows for a larger community to engage at once together, but also in-depth among community members. It can be used for a variety of inquiries, topics or issues.

 


VIEW ALL DIALOGUE AND DELIBERATION RESOURCES

  THE TOOL WHAT IS IT? HOW CAN IT HELP? GET THE TOOL

First 30 Days: Getting Started
Getting Started

 

Why dialogue and deliberation (D&D)?

What can D&D do for my community?

How do I start?

Engagement Streams Framework

A tool for navigating the range of dialogue & deliberation approaches to determine what will be most useful for your goals, purposes, or topics

Help librarians determine what kind of dialogue process will best suit their needs

 

 

Get the Engagement Streams Framework

NCDD (National Coalition for Dialogue & Deliberation) Members Map A map of NCDD members across the country Help librarians find facilitators and people trained in public engagement design and process

 

 

Get the NCDD Members Map
Goals of D&D Graphic A graphic depicting the four goals of dialogue and deliberation

 

Quick visual to determine your goals for a D&D process, in order to tailor process accordingly Get the Goals of D&D Graphic
Principles for Public Engagement Compiled list of public engagement principles from several different sources

 

Several different lists of principles, which can be used to set ground rules for a D&D process Get Principles for Public Engagement
Conditions for Successful D&D List of conditions that increase the likelihood a D&D process will be a success

 

Gives several conditions to improve the possibility that the D&D process will be successful Get Conditions for Successful D&D

30 - 60 Days: Going into the Community
Partner Resources

 

Explore materials from various D&D approaches to find which works best for your needs

 

Everyday Democracy: How to Develop Discussion Materials for Public Dialogue A guide to help develop materials to be used for public dialogue Offers templates for developing steps of the program and writing exercise

 

Get How to Develop Discussion Materials for Public Dialogue
Everyday Democracy: Ten Ways to Make Your Materials More Inclusive

 

A tip sheet on making your materials/events more inclusive A quick checklist that can help make events as inclusive as possible of the whole community Get Ten Ways to Make Your Materials More Inclusive
Everyday Democracy: How to Recruit Dialogue Participants A one-pager on how to recruit dialogue participants from every part of the community Offers five steps to make a well-rounded recruitment process that brings in a diverse group of dialogue participants Get How to Recruit Dialogue Participants

 

Everyday Democracy: Organizing Community-Wide Dialogue for Action and Change A comprehensive guide on how to organize a "study circles" dialogue program Very detailed guide to develop a "study circles" program from beginning to end

Provides case study examples

Get Organizing Community-Wide Dialogue for Action and Change
Everyday Democracy: Protecting Communities, Serving the Public A five-session discussion guide for bringing residents and police together Provides very detailed structure for program and facilitator tips for each session

Available in Spanish

Get Protecting Communities, Serving the Public
Everyday Democracy: Facing Racism in a Diverse Nation A six-session discussion guide for dialogue participants to examine racial/ethnic inequalities and work to create policy/institutional change Provides very detailed structure for program and facilitator tips for each session

Available in Spanish

Get Facing Racism in a Diverse Nation
Everyday Democracy: Strong Starts for Children A five-session discussion guide for dialogue participants to address issues facing children, especially the effects of racism and poverty, and take action Provides very detailed structure for program and facilitator tips for each session

Has worksheets for taking action

Available in Spanish

Get Strong Starts for Children
Everyday Democracy: Youth Issues, Youth Voices A four-session discussion guide for youth and adults to discuss issues related to youth and work together toward problem solving Provides very detailed structure for program and facilitator tips for each session

Supplemental materials available

Get Youth Issues, Youth Voices
Everyday Democracy: Building Strong Neighborhoods for Families and Children A four-session discussion guide for people with children to work toward building better neighborhoods Provides very detailed structure for program and facilitator tips for each session

Supplemental materials available

Get Building Strong Neighborhoods for Families and Children
Everyday Democracy: One Nation, Many Beliefs: Talking about Religion in a Diverse Democracy A five-session discussion guide for people from different religious and philosophical perspectives to strengthen relationships, address tensions, and discuss the rold of religion in public issues Provides very detailed structure for program and facilitator tips for each session

Supplemental materials available

Get One Nation, Many Beliefs: Talking about Religion in a Diverse Democracy
Everyday Democracy: Towards a More Perfect Union in an Age of Diversity A discussion guide for dialogue participants to examine ideas about unity, diversity and pluralism, and how it affects our community and country. Provides session structure with several different viewpoints and discussion starters for each session

Supplemental readings included

Available in Spanish

Get Towards a More Perfect Union in an Age of Diversity
Everyday Democracy: Changing Faces, Changing Communities: Immigration and Race A five-session discussion guide for dialogue participants to face the challenges and opportunities of arrival of community newcomers Provides session structure with several different viewpoints and discussion starters for each session

Supplemental readings included

Available in Spanish

Get Changing Faces, Changing Communities: Immigration and Race
Everyday Democracy: "When the Mask Comes Off" Video and Discussion Guide A discussion guide designed to accompany a screening of "When the Mask Comes Off," a film about youth experiences with mental illness Provides discussion guidelines to explore youth experience ad reflections after the film screening

Designed to be held in school during a 45-minute class period

Available in Spanish

Get "When the Mask Comes Off" Video and Discussion Guide
Everyday Democracy: Thriving Communities: Working Together to Move from Poverty to Prosperity for All A five-session discussion guide to help people talk about poverty in their community and move to take action where all can thrive Provides very detailed structure for program and facilitator tips for each sessions

Supplemental materials included

Available in Spanish

Get Thriving Communities: Working Together to Move from Poverty to Prosperity for All
Everyday Democracy: How-To Guides A list of guides around issues of training facilitators, organizing, developing materials and issue type Explore various guides that can help your process based on your D&D phase (organizing, dialogue, etc.)

 

Get the How-To Guides
World Cafe Method, Metaphor and Community Foundation Overview of the World Cafe process Gives a quick overview of the World Cafe process

 

Get World Cafe Method, Metaphor and Community Foundation
World Cafe: Cafe to Go! A concise 10-page guide on hosting World Cafes, covering the basics of the process Includes a brief outline of each principle, a description of Cafe Etiquette, an outline of key elements of the World Cafe conversations, and tips for creating Cafe ambiance

 

Get Cafe to Go!
World Cafe Checklist A checklist of the materials you may need for a World Cafe process Explicit list of materials needed to run a World Cafe with advice for recommended materials

 

Get the Checklist
World Cafe: Benefits of Graphic Recording A downloadable guide with beautiful visuals about the the benefits of graphic recording Explore how a graphic recorder can make your D&D process more productive by capturing ideas visually as they're being expressed (or before or after the conversation)

 

Get Benefits of Graphic Recording
World Cafe: Image Bank A variety of graphic support materials created by talented World Cafe reflective visual artists Includes printable graphics, like posters and table cards for World Cafe Etiquette

 

Get the Image Bank
World Cafe Book In the first comprehensive book on World Cafe, co-founders Juanita Brown and David Isaacs introduce readers to this simple yet powerful conversational process for thinking together, evoking collective intelligence and creating actionable results

 

Gives in-depth knowledge of the World Cafe dialogue process

Translated into nine languages

Get the World Cafe Book
World Cafe: The Art of Powerful Questions This comprehensive guide, written by Eric Vogt, Juanita Brown and David Isaacs, explores the three dimensions of a powerful question — construction

 

Offers sample questions for focusing collection attention, finding deeper insight and creating forward movement

 

Get The Art of Powerful Questions
60-90 Days: Sharing What You Learn
Digging Deeper

 

Core Principles for Public Engagement A tool to help distinguish the fundamental parts of quality public engagement Gives clear guidelines on how to create quality public engagement opportunities

 

Get Core Principles for Public Engagement

 

  Running a D&D Program Steps for organizing a D&D program Provides 11 steps to design a D&D program that works for the specific needs of the group. This is helpful if you want to go a bit more in-depth with your plans and goals.

 

Get Running a D&D Program

 

  Designing a D&D Process An article that offers guidelines to design better public participation processes Outlines 12 design guidelines to create better engagement processes

 

Get Designing a D&D Process

 

 

These resources are offered as part of Libraries Transforming Communities (LTC): Models for Change, an initiative of the American Library Association (ALA) and National Coalition for Dialogue & Deliberation (NCDD) that seeks to strengthen libraries' roles as core community leaders and agents of change. LTC: Models for Change is made possible in part by the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS).