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Seeing Communities as Partners

Submitted by Ritu Thomas

This activity helps participants think of communities as partners, rather than recipients of funding, information, or external expertise. Instead of seeing them as having problems that "we'' need to solve, it enables participants to see a community’s existing assets and capacities to solve problems.

average rating is 5 out of 5, based on 2 votes, rating(s)
Wall with splashes of colorful paint and the word together written on it

Learning Goals

  • Understand the existing strengths of a community and how to support existing momentum to solve problems.

  • Appreciate the need to engage with the willingness to learn and follow rather than lead.


Set Up: Prepare for the Activity

Select a topic that is important to your discussion group, something they are passionate about or where they see the need for change. As preparation for this activity, consider doing Activity 5.1 Identifying Your Civic Passion to identify an issue and Activity 5.2 Developing an Awareness of Stakeholders to have participants generate stakeholders in prior sessions.

Share a list of 2, 3 or 4 community stakeholders for this issue, depending on the total number of people that will be in each small group (i.e. 4, 6 or 8 people), as a handout or shared document (refer to this Identifying Stakeholders Worksheet).

Prepare an information sheet about each community stakeholder that describes their:

  • views on different aspects of this issue

  • lived experience of the problem

  • definition of the problem

  • individual assets/resources, like individual capabilities, knowledge, connections

  • community’s common assets and resources, like buildings, spaces, equipment

  • community organizations, groups, or local businesses

Don’t share these detailed information sheets with participants yet.

Organize participants into small groups (4-8 ppl).

Begin by introducing the learning goals of this activity.

Step One: Develop “Good Questions” (10 min)

In these small groups, invite participants to refer to the list of stakeholders provided for the chosen issue and work together to create two sets of "good questions" using this Question Chart:

  • A list of questions that gathers information on the community members/stakeholders’ definition and framing of an issue/topic and their perspective on this issue/topic.

  • A list of questions that gathers information on what assets and resources exist in the community. These could be the individual capabilities, knowledge, or connections of community members; buildings, spaces or equipment; community organizations, groups, or businesses; etc.

Step Two: Provide Information on the Community to One Subgroup (5 min)

Within each small group, have participants break into 2 subgroups:

  • The first subgroup will be the Community Member group - each person will role-play one of the stakeholders/community members.

  • The second subgroup will be the Data Gathering group that will gather information from the community members.

Provide the Community Member subgroups with the information sheet about each community stakeholder.

The Data Gathering subgroup does not receive this information.

Step Three: Separately Develop an Initial Plan (10 min)

Invite each subgroup to work separately to define the problem as they see it and quickly draft an initial plan for a solution.

Step Four: Collaboratively Develop a Revised Plan (20 min)

Have the two subgroups come back together.

In each small group, ask the Data Gathering subgroup to use the two lists of questions to engage in a dialogue with the Community Member subgroup and gather information on the community members’ definitions and perspectives of the problem, as well as individual and community assets & resources.

Have both groups then work together to draft a new joint proposal using the new insight and information they gained from their discussion with each other.

Once each small group is finished, have them write both their initial and updated proposals on a whiteboard, shared screen or other surface visible to everyone.

Step Five: Debrief as a Full Group (10 min)

Discuss the results:

  • How did the proposals change with new information?

  • What assumptions did each subgroup have about the issue that they were able to move beyond after talking to each other?





Civic Collaboration

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average rating is 5 out of 5

February 14, 2024 at 1:03:34 AM

average rating is 5 out of 5

February 14, 2024 at 1:02:20 AM

average rating is 5 out of 5

February 11, 2024 at 3:55:15 AM

average rating is 5 out of 5

January 4, 2024 at 7:22:22 PM

average rating is 5 out of 5

December 12, 2023 at 11:56:40 PM

average rating is 5 out of 5

Lori Britt

October 3, 2023 at 5:00:05 PM

Have done this in the past, but today a group really blew me away. I did this as a Fishbowl with 7 students taking roles. Prior to the converstaion they could seek input from a few other students about what which decision they think the person in their role would support and why. I also asked them to come up with some things that were concerns for them. This 10 minute of prep time helped my role play participants really embody and feel confident in their roles. Great discussion about what deliberation looks like in practice and about how power can impact conversations and how a facilitator can try and minimize these power imbalances. I used the scenario above and assigned these roles (I was not sure my students woul be able to consider roles that would offer different perspectives): • Facilitator (non-voting) • Mayor • High school teacher • 17-year-old high school student • Transportation planner for the region • Local business owner • Economic development office for the region (your community and the surrounding communities served by the train) • 50-year-old who lost his job last year and who has been on unemployment

average rating is 4 out of 5


September 20, 2023 at 5:18:02 AM


average rating is 5 out of 5


September 20, 2023 at 5:17:25 AM

very good

average rating is 4 out of 5

September 16, 2023 at 2:25:09 PM

average rating is 5 out of 5

September 11, 2023 at 9:02:29 AM

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