Civic life encompasses the inﬁnite ways that people may connect and contribute to their community and society: from voting in an election or organizing a neighborhood block-party, to standing up for a just cause or supporting arts in our parks. For some time, however, many facets of civic life have been in decline. This conversation is an opportunity to reimagine our civic life. We have a chance now to embrace our interdependence and to create just and productive communities. Success depends on our ability to create spaces that foster relationships of belonging, ensuring everyone has the opportunity and motivation to contribute to a thriving civic life.
Background Information:This guide was created in partnership with Thriving Together a unifying organization focused on transforming inequitable systems, capturing shared values, and working toward all people and places thriving without exception. Learn more at Thriving.US.
Let's Get Started!
Living Room Conversations offers a simple, sociable and structured way to practice communicating across differences while building understanding and relationships. Typically, 4-6 people meet in person or by video call for about 90 minutes to listen to and be heard by others on one of our nearly 100 topics. Rather than debating or convincing others, we take turns talking to share, learn, and be curious. No preparation is required, though background links with balanced views are available on some topic pages online. Anyone can host using these italicized instructions. Hosts also participate.
Why We're Here (~10 min)
Share your name, where you live, what drew you here, and if this is your first conversation.
How We'll Engage (~5 min)
These will set the tone of our conversation; participants may volunteer to take turns reading them aloud. (Click here for the full conversation agreements.)
- Be curious and listen to understand.
- Show respect and suspend judgment.
- Note any common ground as well as any differences.
- Be authentic and welcome that from others.
- Be purposeful and to the point.
- Own and guide the conversation.
What We’ll Talk About
Optional: a participant can keep track of time and gently let people know when their time has elapsed.
Getting to Know Each Other (~10 min)
Each participant can take 1-2 minutes to answer one of these questions:
- What are your hopes and concerns for your family, community and/or the country?
- What would your best friend say about who you are?
- What sense of purpose / mission / duty guides you in your life?
Civic Renewal (~40 min)
Take ~2 minutes each to answer a question below without interruption or crosstalk. After everyone has answered, the group may take a few minutes for clarifying or follow up questions/responses. Continue exploring additional questions as time allows..
- When is a time that you felt especially engaged in civic life in your community? What did that look like for you?
- Describe a time that you felt excluded from your community’s civic life. How has that impacted you?
- How do we create a civic life where everyone has the opportunity to contribute and experience a sense of belonging?
Reflecting on the Conversation (~15 min)
Take 2 minutes to answer one of the following questions:
- What was most meaningful / valuable to you in this Living Room Conversation?
- What learning, new understanding or common ground was found on the topic?
- How has this conversation changed your perception of anyone in this group?
- Is there a next step you would like to take based upon the conversation?