Community Conversations

Group at table working collaboratively

Community Conversations focus on building local capacity to engage with difficult issues -- more collaboratively and productively -- through the use of deliberative engagement processes.

Deliberative engagement processes help transform conversations beyond a collection of individual opinions into collaborative, community-focused learning. Processes are interactive, facilitated, and inclusive of small group discussions. Community Conversations provide a framework for dialogue, and can be used to support high quality communication that builds understanding around difficult issues.

Community Conversations is a partnership of the Estes Valley Library and Estes Valley Restorative Justice Partnership.

Background

In 2018, the Estes Valley Library brought Dr. Martin Carcasson Ph.D., professor of Communication Studies at Colorado State University, the founder and director of the CSU Center for Public Deliberation (CPD) (www.cpd.colostate.edu), and the current chair of the National Coalition for Dialogue and Deliberation Board of Directors (www.ncdd.org) to present to the community on "Tackling Wicked Problems." Because interest and attendance was so high, the Library brought Dr. Carcasson, back in February 2019 to begin putting these principles into action. Drawing on the Library's strengths of political neutrality and meaningful programs with wide community appeal, and EVRJP's skills in neutral facilitation, the organizations began to pursue the goal of becoming trained in and offering a deliberative model of engagement to better enable productive community conversations.

A 3-day workshop in January 2020 focused on building local capacity to engage with difficult issues more collaboratively and productively through the use of deliberative processes. The workshop... 

  • examined the concept of "wicked problems" as a framework to better understand difficult issues,
  • reviewed recent research on social psychology,
  • explored why traditional engagement processes are often counterproductive to supporting high quality communication, and
  • built on foundations of deliberative engagement.

The workshop was again led by Dr. Carcasson, and representatives from EVRJP, the Library and the community attended. 

Estes Valley Restorative Justice Partnership and Estes Valley Library formalized their relationship through a MOU and created a steering committee to guide and provide leadership for the program. The Steering Committee developed a vision and mission statement, guidelines for topic selection, and a timeline for programming. Additionally, the group fielded a community ask exercise to get input on topics of interest in the Estes Valley community.

Program implementation began in Fall 2020 in collaboration with Conflict Resolution Month programming. EVRJP and the Library continue to collaborate on this endeavor to elevate the quality of civil discourse in the Estes Valley.

Mission & Vision

Vision: A kind community based on respect and collaborative problem-solving

Mission: Improve public communication, promote active community problem-solving and elevate conversations in the Estes Valley.

Framework

The Community Conversations framework includes:

Living Room Conversations (LRC): small group conversations which identify commonalities, build relationships and foster connection, finding common ground through conversations around personal experiences. LRC utilizes conversation guides created by Living Room Conversations. LRC is open source and can be customized to meet needs.

Public Deliberation Event (PDE): these are opportunities with a larger group to grapple with ‘wicked’ problems that represent competing values, and for which there is no easy solution. It is a chance to gather information about what is most important to stakeholders and enable the public to evaluate various paths toward resolution. A placemat of options provides a basis for engagement without an either-or division.

Topic Selection Criteria

The following criteria will be used to determine topic selection:

  • Does the topic or project fit within the mission?
  • Does adequate manpower, training, access to information and budget to complete the project in a quality manner exist?
  • Is there sufficient public interest, and would it serve the interests of the community, to conduct a conversation or deliberation on the topic? Alternatively, does this topic support or complement programs/programming of the Library or Restorative Justice?
  • Is there buy-in from organizations/entities with apparent stakeholder interests? 
  • Is it actionable? Is there an organization or entity that is receptive, empowered and prepared to act upon findings? 
  • If requested by an outside organization, is that organization willing to work within the Community Conversations deliberative engagement structure?
  • Does adequate trust exist? Is there transparency with regard to motive, communication and use of findings?

 

In selecting topics or projects, consideration will be given to the fact that Community Conversations is backed by two public entities which are supported by taxpayer dollars, grants, and private donations, and that the partnership between the two entities is governed by a Memorandum of Understanding between their respective boards.

Current Planning

Following are upcoming Community Conversations. Community Conversations is a partnership of the Estes Valley Library and Estes Valley Restorative Justice Partnership. Registration for all Living Room Conversations is limited, and participants should sign up in advance by the Events Calendar at www.estesvalleylibrary.org.

St. Vrain Forest Health: Allenspark & Meeker Park - Public Deliberation Event

Wednesday, April 13th, 5-7:30PM at Highlands Camp and Retreat, located at 1306 Business Highway 7 in Allenspark. Learn more about this event.

 

Status & Privilege - Living Room Conversation

Thursday, April 24th, 5-6:30 PM

 

Mental Health - Living Room Conversation

Wednesday, May 11th, 10-11:30 AM

 

The Future of Work - Living Room Conversation

Thursday, June 16th, 3:30-5 PM

 

Gender - Living Room Conversation

Wednesday, July 27th, 4-5:30 PM

 

Weave the Social Fabric - Living Room Conversation

Wednesday, August 10th, 11 AM-12:30 PM

 

Guns & Responsibility - Living Room Conversation

Tuesday, September 13th, 3-4:30 PM

 

News in the Modern World: Expectation vs. Reality - Living Room Conversation

Monday, November 7th, 10:30 AM-12 PM

 

Social, Emotional & Spiritual Renewal - Living Room Conversation

Tuesday, December 6th, 10:15-11:45 AM