Build a diverse working group of community leaders who are committed to
fostering dialogue. It is this group that will get broad community
sponsorship for the study circles, work with the media, train the
facilitators and set up the groups. Ideal partners in a working group hips include:
organizations that have the staff, resources, and media clout to pull the
an organization with training expertise;
that are connected to everyday community members from every background; and
public officials and other top community leaders.
Such a working group could
include individuals from the mayor's office, the school system, ethnic associations, the
community mediation center, the police department, the YMCA and YWCA, an
interreligious or interfaith coalition, the NAACP, the urban league
affiliate, and many others.
Hold a study circle among your working group. This will help solidify your
collaboration and help your group come to a better understanding of the
study circle process. It will also help you finalize decisions about how you
will present your program to the community and what materials you will use
for your study circles.
Decide how your working group will handle the overall coordination of the
program. Decide who will recruit study circle participants and leaders, and
how participants, leaders, and sites will be matched.
Identify and recruit sponsors who can lend their resources and credibility
to the program. They will expand the power of the study circle coalition and
help reach out into the whole community. Think very broadly, and talk with
everyone you can think of. The "working group" plus the larger group of
sponsors will make a powerful community-wide coalition.
Hold a few pilot study circles among coalition members. This will help
solidify the commitment of sponsors and increase their understanding of the
study circle process. Those who participate will gain an increased sense of
ownership of the program, and will make a much more powerful call for
dialogue to the community.
Recruit potential discussion leaders. Sometimes the working group takes
primary responsibility for this, and sometimes sponsors are asked to help.
Whatever the case, recruit individuals from many backgrounds who know how to help people listen and engage in
constructive dialogue, and who are comfortable dealing with people of
Hold a training session for the discussion leaders. A local college or
university, a human relations organization, or a community mediation center
are often able to organize this phase of the study circle program. The
training organization should be part of the central working group, so that
it can provide ongoing support for discussion leaders, and oversight of
facilitator quality .
In conjunction with your study circle training, consider holding a session
or a training for your facilitators that focuses on cross-cultural
communication and sensitivity. Tap into local expertise. (See the Resource
at the end of this guide.)
Recruit participants from a broad cross-section of the community. This is
easier, of course, if your coalition is broadly representative of the whole
community. Work hard to include people who do not normally get involved in
Set a range of dates for the full-fledged program so that all of the study
circles in the community will occur more or less within the same time frame.
Hold a kickoff event to broadcast the study circle program.
Let the study circles begin!
Help participants find ways to become actively involved in putting their
ideas to work in the community. A concluding event that brings together all
the study circles and the sponsoring organizations can be a good way to do
this: it can spur the formation of working groups throughout the community,
and connect action steps with community institutions and programs.