6 steps for moving from dialogue to action

Woman writing on a flip chart.Typically, the action coming from dialogues falls into various categories. Large, diverse programs will result in many different kinds of change, happening at all levels in the community. for individuals, ideas for change start through the dialogue process. Collective action and change often begin after the round of dialogues, when participants pool their action ideas. It is these ideas for collective change that can require additional oversight and resources.

1. Refer back to your program goals

Review the decisions the coalition made about program goals and supporting action during its planning conversations. Establishing an action committee will help you organize this phase of the process. Make sure the action committee has the right diversity of people and skills to help move from dialogue to action. Pay particular attention to whether the people on the action committee reflect the demographics of your community. Make sure that people from group which have been excluded in the past from decision-making have a meaningful role on the committee.


2. Decide how much support you can provide for action initiatives

With members of the coalition, action committee, and coordinator, talk about what will happen when the dialogues conclude. Consider these questions:

  • What kinds of support can we give to the action teams (coordinating, administrative, tracking, etc.)? For how long?
  • Who will plan the action forum?
  • What kinds of resources do we need? How do we ensure that resources are distributed equitably?
  • What will we do with the action ideas that the action teams are not working on?


3. Develop a process for collecting and prioritizing ideas from the dialogues

Decide what the facilitator/recorder should report out from each dialogue group. Then consider these questions:

  • Who will be responsible for collecting the records from each dialogue group?
  • Who will review the records and put them in a workable format?
  • What is the best way to track themes, trends, and categories of ideas as they emerge?
  • How will we pool the ideas across the dialogues, and choose overall priorities?
  • How many action ideas do we think we are able to work with?

Some programs combine records into a report for the program as a whole. This can be distributed at the action forum, used to give updates to public officials and journalists, and can form the basis of significant input into policy decisions.


4. Plan the action forum

The action forum is a community event designed to tie together the work of the individual dialogues, and help participants move to individual and collective action. At the forum, groups can share their ideas for action, and participants can join or create action efforts.

The action forum should take place no more than two weeks after each round of dialogues to build on the momentum of the discussions.


5. Assist action team leaders before they begin their work

It is very important to support your action team leaders! Here are some guidelines to keep in mind as they begin their work:

  • Include people from diverse backgrounds who know a lot about the issue and have the authority to help implement change.
  • Establish ground rules.
  • Establish a process for working together, including decision making, a timeline, and a meeting schedule.
  • Clarify goals. What kind of change do we want to see? How will we know if we are successful? What are our short-term and long-term goals? Who benefits and who might be left behind by these goals?
  • Find out what else is going on in the community related to this action idea. How can you connect to those efforts?
  • Think about what barriers you might face when implementing an action idea, and how you could prevent or overcome them.
  • Stay in touch. How will the work be connected to the overall dialogue-to-change program? How will we report our outcomes?


6. Track and support the action and change efforts

Even if you aren’t providing direct assistance to action teams, it’s important to stay in touch with the groups. If possible, bring everyone together from time to time to share progress and challenges and to stay connected. This is a great way to re-energize the groups and share resources and strategies.

As the action teams continue their work, keep the community informed of their efforts and the changes that are taking place. A lot of people and organizations invested a lot of time and resources into the program and they’d like to see a positive outcome.

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Dialogue to Change

Our ultimate goal is to create positive community change that includes everyone, and our tools, advice, and resources foster that kind of change. Whether you’re grappling with a divisive community issue, or simply want to include residents’ voices in city government, Everyday Democracy's Dialogue to Change process, using a racial equity lens, can help.