Facilitation for Community Engagement

An engaged community is crucial to a healthy democracy, but leading effective community conversations about difficult issues can be tough — and when public meetings go badly, they can generate mistrust, polarization, and stagnation.

From questions about a public art to conflicts over racial and ethnic differences, our framework has been used to improve social cohesion, collect valuable community input, and encourage the mutual trust that is a precondition to solving problems in a democracy.

This workshop helps participants apply Essential Partners’ Reflective Structured Dialogue framework to design community meetings and facilitate constructive public conversations about difficult and divisive issues.


  • To learn how EP’s Reflective Structured Dialogue framework can support more constructive public engagement;
  • To apply EP’s dialogue framework to design constructive meetings that address significant differences within a community;
  • To practice methods of speaking, listening, and asking questions that foster more productive public engagement;
  • To learn to intervene during particularly difficult or heated moments.

As a result of this workshop, you will be equipped to:

  • Design a productive public discussion of divisive community problems;
  • Manage challenging moments with more confidence;
  • Diffuse “us” vs. “them” dynamics in a public setting;
  • Foster a more resilient community that embraces its differences and diversity of views.

Who might participate:

  • Elected officials and candidates
  • Campaign staff and organizers
  • Municipal employees
  • Civic leaders and advocates
  • Nonprofit managers
  • Clergy and lay religious leaders
  • Community engagement professionals


For more information, please contact us at training@whatisessential.org or 617-923-1216 ext. 10.

Workshop policies


1 Day Add-On: Navigating Intercultural Contexts

Culture and communication are deeply intertwined. Our backgrounds inform our behavior under stress, how we express strong emotions, and how we employ ideals like “respect” and “trust.”

Understanding the “right” way to behave derives from our backgrounds and cultures. Often, we only recognize our particular tendencies in those difficult situations where our norm is not everyone else’s norm.

This workshop will ground participants in the Intercultural Development Continuum, a tool to help understand how individuals and groups can move toward greater intercultural fluency.

Honing personal and collective practices for cultural self-awareness can help align our intent with our impact, especially in the midst of conflict.


  • To gain an understanding of the Intercultural Development Continuum;
  • To practice active awareness of their cultural triangulation as facilitators;
  • To explore applications of a developmental understanding to intervene in groups where cultural differences are informing a conflict.

As a result of this workshop, you will be equipped to:

  • Navigate intercultural contexts with greater self-awareness and dexterity;
  • Employ the basic principles of the Intercultural Development Continuum;
  • Integrate an intercultural mindset into dialogue design.

Who might participate:

  • Trained facilitators and mediators
  • Civic leaders and advocates
  • Nonprofit managers
  • Clergy and lay religious leaders
  • Community engagement professionals
  • Business and Human Resources managers


Upcoming Workshops

August 23, 2019
186 Alewife Brook Parkway, Suite 212, Cambridge, MA 02138
Regular fee
Early Bird Special:
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Preparation and Purpose, Meeting Design, Role Play/Simulation, Small Group Exercises


Excellent practical knowledge. I feel knowledgeable enough about this to really use it and not have it sitting on the shelf.