- General Issues
- Human Rights & Civil Rights
- Law Enforcement, Criminal Justice & Corrections
- Specific Topics
- Ethnic/Racial Relations
- Community & Police Relations
- School Governance
- General Types of Methods
- Community development, organizing, and mobilization
- Deliberative and dialogic process
- General Types of Tools/Techniques
- Recruit or select participants
- Facilitate dialogue, discussion, and/or deliberation
- Inform, educate and/or raise awareness
Beginning life as the Study Circles Resource Center in 1989, Everyday Democracy has championed the Dialogue to Change method of public participation, engaging communities in connection-building and capacity-development through to mobilization and sustained action.
Purpose and Mission
Everyday Democracy works with individuals in communities throughout the United States to improve local democracy by creating and sustaining public dialogue and problem solving. Everyday Democracy’s mission is to "strengthen democracy by making authentic engagement and public participation a permanent part of the way we work as a country." They engage and provide resources and training to communities following the Dialogue-to-Change process which "uses solid engagment principles with a racial equity lens, and leads from personal connection to sustained action."
Origins and Development
In 1982, businessman Paul J. Aicher sold his business and used the proceeds to establish the Topsfield Foundation, Inc. Based in Pomfret, Conn., The Topsfield Foundation dedicated itself to enhancing civic engagement through public dialogue. Later, in 1989, the foundation established the Study Circles Resource Center as its primary project.
In the early 1990s, the Study Circles Resource Center created and distributed tools such as discussion guides to help individuals in local communities engage in inclusive talk about public issues and controversies. Throughout the 1990s, the organization fostered a national network of discursive coalitions that addressed issues such as racism, inter-ethnic relations, and diversity. Since the 2000, the organization expanded its activities to include community organizing in order to diversify participation in dialogue and focus attention on action as well as deliberation. In 2008, the organization changed its name from the Study Circles Resource Center to Everyday Democracy to reflect its increased attention to collective action and public problem solving.
Organizational Structure, Membership, and Funding
Everyday Democracy's primary source of funding is The Paul J. Aicher Foundation. Additional support for the work of the Center and the Foundation comes from contracts, grants, and in-kind support from other foundations and partner organizations.
Specializations, Methods and Tools
Everyday Democracy provides various kinds of assistance to help individuals in local communities engage in problem-solving, deliberation, and social action. The organization provides how-to guides on organizing dialogues and facilitation as well as a large number of “issue guides,” videos, and books on issues such as racism and racial equity, urban sprawl, education, poverty, and immigration. In the communities where Everyday Democracy provides customized technical assistance, program staff provide educational resources and training to residents, assisting communities to identify and harness their own ability and capacity to create change. According to the organization, the Dialogue to Change process contains five components: organizing, facilitation, dialogue, action, evaluation, and sustaining progress. The following is adapted from "Our Approach to Change" on the organization's website:
During the organizing phase, emphasis is placed 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 meet during a 4-6 week period.
The dialogue phase leads into the action forum, where participants come together to share their ideas. The group decides on which action ideas to move forward, and action teams form to carry out the ideas.
To strengthen a dialogue to change, Everyday Democracy suggests creating an accurate process for documenting and evaluating the entire effort. Dialogue participants, grant-making foundations, public officials, news media, and other people who can help expand, strengthen, and institutionalize the dialogue to change program in the community will all want to know about the efforts and their impact.
Lasting change doesn't happen overnight. After your first round of dialogues, you may decide to hold another round to involve more people in the community. You may also want to create a group to help coordinate the implementation of action ideas that came out of the dialogues. Finally, you may be able to institutionalize this dialogue to change process in your workplace, a local nonprofit, or within your local government.
Major Projects and Events
Since 1989 Everyday Democracy has supported, guided, evaluated, and/or convened hundreds of deliberative events, community organizing initiatives, and dialogue-to-change programs. The following are a selection of the organization's most well-known work:
- Communities Creating Racial Equity (2007-2009)
- Horizons Anti-Poverty Program (2005-2010)
- Food For Health: Building a Healthy Food System for NYC (2010)
- Strong Starts for Children: Dialogues on Early Childhood Development and Education in Albuquerque, New Mexico (2010-2011)
- Turning the Tide on Poverty (2009- )
Analysis and Lessons Learned
Want to contribute an analysis of this organization? Help us complete this section!
All of Everyday Democracy's publications are made available to the publish and are published under Creative Commons licensing. Publications and resources include discussion guides, reports, worksheets, activities, handouts, how-to's, and more.
Study Circles (Dialogue-to-Change) (method)
 Mission Statement, Everyday Democracy, 2018, https://www.everyday-democracy.org
 "History of Everyday Democracy," Everyday Democracy, https://www.everyday-democracy.org/about/history.
 "About the Paul J. Aicher Foundation," Everyday Democracy, https://www.everyday-democracy.org/about/foundation.
 "Our Approach to Change," Everyday Democracy, 2018, https://www.everyday-democracy.org/dialogue-to-change/about
 "Resources for Change Makers," Everyday Democracy, accessed May 26, 2019, https://www.everyday-democracy.org/resources.
Matt Leighninger, Martha McCoy. Mobilizing Citizens: Study Circles Offer a New Approach to Citizenship in National Civic Review, Vol. 87, No. 2 (July 2003): 183-190.
Martha L. McCoy, Patrick L. Scully. Deliberative Dialogue to Expand Civic Engagement: What Kind of Talk Does Democracy Need?, in National Civic Review, Vol. 91, No. 2 (Summer 2002): 117-135.