Community Conversation Guide

Michael Haupt
Community Conversations
5 min readAug 11, 2012


This Guide is distributed to all Community Conversation participants and is designed to support you in engaging fully in a purposeful and meaningful conversation about the future of our community.

The Community Conversations process is designed to be a simple and sociable informal conversation in which a small group of people comes together to get to know one another, in a more meaningful way than usual, by talking about their sense of personal purpose in their lives and our community and about the issues that are of personal priority and concern. The goal is for everyone to be open and curious about all perspectives and see what we learn from one another, rather than to debate any particular topic or issue.

This is a ‘no surprises’ and transparent approach to an unusual conversation. You are about to see and read the material that will be covered and referenced during the Community Conversation you will soon be attending. You are encouraged to print this out (there’s a Print option to the left which will remove all the other blog gumpf) and bring it along with you. With this material in hand, all the participants have the opportunity to think and prepare before the event as much or as little as you wish to. We encourage you to participate and contribute fully before and during the event — that way you and our community get the most benefit from your participation. In other words, we know you have an opinion — we want to hear it!

The Purpose of Community Conversations:

  1. To develop a practical, personal and social approach to hosting rewarding and productive conversations among people with different views on politics, religion and lifestyle. A Community Conversation is intended to provide a simple means to support people who see the need and are willing to actively reach and connect across divides.
  2. To provide a simple and sociable conversation format in which a small group of people comes together to get to know one another, in a more meaningful way than usual, by talking about their sense of personal purpose in their lives and in our community and about their priority hopes and concerns for the future of the community, country and planet.
  3. Community Conversations provides a framework and means to move away from divisive “opinion” debate and instead have a purposeful “desired future” conversation while staying open and curious about all perspectives and then to see what participants learn from one another.
  4. The purpose of the Community Conversations project is to provide a practical and powerful approach to support the rising spirit of citizens coming together, outside of arguing of opinions, to create new and unlikely relationships, to encourage sustained engagement and to spark opportunities for cooperative action to address local and national challenges. We dream of enhancing the quality of our public dialogue so that we can benefit from purposeful and respectful interactions among citizens and leaders both locally and nationally.

The Intended Outcomes of a Community Conversation:

  1. To generate a spirit of mutual curiosity, respect and appreciation among those of differing political / issue perspectives.
  2. To bring forth the trust and courage to generously express and actively appreciate one another’s authentic revealing of heartfelt values, principles and sense of purpose.
  3. To listen generously and actively support the discovery of common interest and concern.
  4. To be open and curious about all perspectives and see what can be learned from listening to one another, rather than debating differing “opinions” on any topic or issue.
  5. To inspire a sense of openness, willingness and even partnership for further connecting or cooperating in some way.
  6. To evoke a direct experience of an authentic, meaningful and rewarding conversation.
  7. To foster a sense of confidence and willingness in participants to take initiative to reach out to those they usually avoid.

The Community Conversation Guidelines:

  • Be Curious and Open to Learning: Listen to and be open to hearing all points of view. Maintain an attitude of exploration and learning.
  • Balance Advocacy and Inquiry: Seek to learn and understand as much as you might want to persuade. Conversation is as much about listening as it is about talking.
  • Show Respect and Suspend Judgment: Human beings tend to judge one another, do your best not to. Setting judgments aside will enable you to learn from others and contribute to others experiencing being respected and appreciated.
  • Seek Alignment rather than Agreement: Alignment is shared intention, whereas agreement is having a shared belief or opinion. In this conversation we look for alignment primarily and simply appreciate that we will disagree on some beliefs and opinions.
  • Be Authentic and Welcome that from Others: Share what’s important to you. Speak authentically; from your personal and heart felt experience. Be considerate to others who are doing the same.
  • Be Purposeful and to the Point: Notice if what you are conveying is or is not “on purpose” to the question at hand. Notice if you are making the same point more than once. Do your best to make your point with honesty and depth.
  • Own and Guide the Conversation: Take responsibility for the quality of your participation and the quality of the conversation by noticing what’s happening and actively support getting yourself and others back “on purpose” when needed.

Tips For Managing Difficult or Disruptive Situations During the Community Conversation

There will be two hosts guiding the conversation, but you are invited to be self-monitoring and take responsibility for helping keep the conversation on track. There is one simple set of steps to do in the event that the conversation has gotten off track or one or more people have become a little excited.

  1. Respectfully interrupt the situation.
  2. Ask everyone to refer to this Conversation Guide where the Purpose, Intended Outcomes and Conversation Guidelines are described.
  3. Ask the group to identify what Purpose, Intent or Guideline would help get the conversation back on track.
  4. Ask the individual or group if they are willing to get back on that Purpose, Intent or Guideline and to get back on track with the current question of the round.

Preparation — Questions to Think About Before your Conversation

Take just a few minutes, or as long as you want, to think about each question listed below. You are encouraged to make notes now and to bring these with you to elaborate on during the Conversation. Some of the bullet points below have several questions and in those cases you are welcome to answer the one or two that are most meaningful to you.

  • Why did you accept the invitation to participate in this conversation? What interested you or drew you to this conversation?
  • Who are you? What sense of purpose / mission / duty guides you in your personal and/or professional life? What would your best friend say about who you are and what makes you “tick”? What three words would a family member use to describe the “essence” of you?
  • What are your hopes and / or concerns for the longer term future for our community?
  • What most concerns you about our community and/or the country or planet right now?

The following questions will be asked at the end of the conversation and are presented here so you know what to expect. As you can see, they cannot be answered before attending the Conversation.

  • What learning, new understanding or appreciation do you have about an issue of concern?
  • Has this conversation changed your perception of anyone in this group, including yourself?
  • Is there any next step you would like to take based upon the conversation you just had?
  • What is one important thing you thought was accomplished here? What did you appreciate the most about what happened here? Who would you especially like to acknowledge? In one sentence, share what was most meaningful/valuable to you in the experience of this conversation.



Michael Haupt
Community Conversations