A Community Conversation Cycle


Nationally, the Barbara Schneider Foundation (BSF) provides de-escalation training in the Crisis Intervention Team (CIT) model, which promotes partnerships among the three core elements of Public Safety, Mental Health, and Community Advocacy. The training focuses on assisting individuals with mental illness and improving the safety of patrol officers, consumers, family members, and citizens within the community.

The nexus where the three core elements or circles of partnership overlap provides the vital space in which BSF conducts its four-part Community Conversations series – respectively titled Discovery, Dream, Design, and Destiny. Incorporating methods of Appreciative Inquiry dialogue into our CIT work, BSF facilitates dialogue about what gives life to human systems when they function at their best. It is based on the assumption that questions and dialogue about strengths, successes, values, hopes, and dreams are transformational. It suggests that successful human organizing and change is a relational process of inquiry.

Advance Meeting

BSF will arrange an advance and exploratory meeting in the indigenous community with our primary contacts regarding a possible project. Together, we will explore and get a better sense of what the issue is, see if we are the right fit for work, clarify expectations about the project, talk about the critical formation of a Host Planning Team (HPT), arrange timelines, coordinate planning, identify resources, establish preliminary goals for the project, examine next action steps, determine how to get started, and other necessary considerations.

Preparing the Quest for New Possibilities

Soon after the Host Planning Team is selected in the local community, BSF will facilitate its first meeting with the team. Throughout the course of the conversation series, HPT will be responsible for co-creating the four-part, inquiry-based Community Conversation design as summarized above. The conversations will engage participants in meaningful, inspiring, and positive ways. The team will be composed of 3-5 interested and committed people who are key representatives of a variety of functions, levels, and disciplines from the three circles previously identified as CIT’s core elements and partnerships. Their diverse backgrounds and experience will enhance the depth and breadth of thinking throughout the overall process, from start to finish. Members will be trusted by their community or organization to implement both the inquiry-based conversational process and the changes that emerge.

BSF will introduce the Community Conversation change process to the team. BSF will help establish a supporting infrastructure, engage the team in the planning process, select the affirmative topics or themes that sets the course for the community’s learning and transformation experience, craft questions for the interview guides, develop process designs as necessary, conduct interviews, and make meaning of what’s been learned after each community conversation.

Generally, BSF will help the HPT select a change agenda that is best suited to the Community Conversation, choose a form of engagement that is appropriate for the change agenda, design a plan or inquiry strategy about how the initiative will unfold over time, and help identify who will do what, and when, in order to achieve the overall change agenda.

The Four-part Community Conversation Series

The Discovery conversation challenges stakeholders to uncover the rich accounts and peak experiences of when their community is at its best. Acknowledging that the community is not always at its best, the “data” and narratives collected during this phase help stakeholders illuminate the foundational strengths that give life and vitality to the community’s positive core.

The Dream conversation invites participants to imagine, without critique or judgement, life-giving forces that could contribute to its success and vision for a positive future. The group gets into the spirit and acknowledges its possibility of greatness, locally and globally. Already grounded in the community’s positive history, the dream phase looks beyond the status quo of the community.

The Design conversation participants enter the crucial stage of bridging the community’s positive core (Discovery) to its shared vision of an ideal community and its people (Dream). Clear, compelling pictures and design statements emerge of how the community will be when the “best of the past” and the “possibilities of the future” are connected, formed, and become fully effective.

The Destiny conversation ensures that the dream becomes reality. Participants emerge with a strong, personal sense of what they can contribute to the future of their community. Self-selected and self-organized groups plan the next steps for implementation and institutionalization of design statements. No prioritization or sequence of needs and concerns is involved. People who are passionate about implementing a particular aspect of the design step forward and join like-spirited collaborators.

The local sponsors and the HPT will contribute and be responsible for the content for the inquiry-based conversations. The BSF will provide its process facilitation services for the conversation series.