Civic Engagement Tools

Civic Engagement Tools

In our section on Democratic tools, we cover ideas like Citizen Assembles and Participatory Budgeting.

With Civic Engagement, our focus is on community engagement, participation and strengthening the social fabric of the community.   As we welcome people into a shared community and civic dialogues, we can encourage them to participate in the other democratic processes.

City-wide Conversations

Cities are experimenting with a deeper form of democracy by bringing a lot more people into conversations. The idea is to gain as much information from as many perspectives as possible. This allows us to see more, and at the same time, builds connections and inspires people to see how their voice and contributions matter.  Some people call a city wide process like this a “charette”. 

One example is in the city of Columbus, Ohio.  They stage an annual event called Sustainable Cleveland that any citizen can attend. The facilitation is done by Jon Berghoff, who is a master facilitator and trains other facilitators. Charrettes can be used for a variety of purposes. In the Columbus example, it is focused on sustainability. You might also consider them for

  • Setting community priorities and vision
  • Defining what Wellbeing means to your community
  • Identifying the ideal values that drive the community
  • Dealing with an area of conflict

WEAll California can help you organize your large group gatherings.

You can get a taste of Jon Berghoff’s style on this podcast episode – 4 Questions That Will Change Your Life


Meeting in person and forming joyful connections is ideal, but not everyone will be able to join in.   Community surveys can capture a wider audience than an in person charette.

Surveys being used are to get people to identify what wellbeing means to them and what values are most important to them.

WEAll works with partners that can provide the tools you need to conduct a Values or Wellbeing survey.

ABCD is a philosophy and set of practices to build a healthy community.  Peter Block and John McKnight are two of the pioneers of these methods and amazing teachers.  

Community Conversations

Over 400 organizations have come together to exchange ideas about how to communicate better.  The Listen First Coalition can steer you to local organizations, organizations with specific focuses like reducing polarization or working within or across faith communities.

We have a fondness for 4 types of discussions:

Values Based Discussions – The US Values Alliance promotes conversations in grounded deep discussions about what matters most.

Asset Based Community Development (ABCD) –   We recommend starting with Peter Block’s excellent book  – Community: The Structure of Belonging.  Several organizations run courses in the ABCD method – Tamarack Institute, ABCD Institute and Abundant Community.

Appreciative Inquiry – David Cooperrider and Jon Berghoff are two of the leaders in Appreciative Inquiry.  David teaches at Case Western University and Jon runs a private academy called XChange which hosts monthly free introductions into the methodology.

World Cafes – World Cafes help community members get to meet each other while also harnessing the power of the whole collective.  You can learn more at their website.

WEAll California is happy to work with you on any of these methods in your community or group.