Dialogue to Change

A community engagement method to advance deliberative and inclusive democracy.

Problems and Purpose

Dialogue to Change (also known as Dialogue to Action) is a process where diverse groups of people meet over several weeks and take part in activities that build trust, provide opportunities to share honestly, learn about an issue and work together on solutions and action. Whether a community is grappling with a divisive issue or want to include residents' voices in city government, the Dialogue to Change process helps communities create their own space for engagement, equity, and problem solving.

Origins and Development

In 1997, Everyday Democracy (formerly known as the Study Circles Resource Center) noted that action was an essential component for communities to make a difference on the issues they were discussing using the Study Circles process. To make action an explicit component of the Study Circles process, Dialogue to Change or Dialogue to Action was adopted. [1]

Participant Recruitment and Selection

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How it Works: Process, Interaction, and Decision-Making

At the most basic level, the Dialogue to Change process focuses on three core components: organizing, dialogue, and action to advance a deliberative and inclusive democracy. Everyday Democracy has included facilitation, evaluation, and sustaining progress as additional parts to the Dialogue to Change approach. [2]


  • During the organizing phase, the emphasis is on coalition-building, recruitment of diverse dialogue participants, message development, early planning for action and training of facilitators. In this phase, it is crucial to reach out to every sector of the population to ensure that everyone's voice is heard.


  • A group of well-trained facilitators is a key component to the dialogue process because facilitators ensure a quality and equitable discussion in each circle. Facilitators need to be good listeners and relate well to many different kinds of people.


  • During the dialogue phase, people of varied ages, ethnicities and perspectives come together around a public concern in a space that fosters constructive, respectful conversation. Participants listen to each other's hopes and concerns, build relationships, and generate ideas for action. Typically, several groups of 8-12 participants meet over a 4-6 week period.


  • The dialogues lead to the action forum, where participants come together to share ideas. The group decides on which action ideas to move forward and action teams form to carry out the ideas.


  • One of the most effective things a community can do to strengthen their dialogue to change program is to create an accurate process for documenting and evaluating the entire effort.

Sustaining Progress:

  • After a community's first round of dialogues, a community may decide to hold another round to involve more people in the community. A group could be created to help coordinate the implementation of action ideas that emerge from the dialogues. This dialogue to change process could also be institutionalized in a workplace, a local nonprofit, or within a local government.

Given the impact of racism in the United States, Everyday Democracy's Dialogue to Change process pays special attention to how structural racism and other inequities affect the issues a community is addressing.

Influence, Outcomes, and Effects

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Analysis and Lessons Learned

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See Also

Communities Creating Racial Equity Initiative Phase I

Study Circles


  1. "History of Everyday Democracy," Everyday Democracy,
  2. "Our Approach to Change," Everyday Democracy,

External Links