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Convening large groups of people for honest conversations about difficult issues

Imagine—people of all ages, races, backgrounds, and beliefs sitting down and really talking about the issues and opportunities we face together.

Imagine sitting in a safe environment, where care is being given to the principles that support democracy.

Imagine—talking first about the complexities and passions of topics such as immigration, education, jobs, leadership, the environment, and business, and then focusing on actions we can take to create the community we want today and for future generations.

CS1That’s the goal of Collaborative Spark—a small group of passionate and deeply experienced large-scale change consultants who believe this time is full of potential. We host community conversations designed to create a safe and neutral listening and learning environment to help us understand one another, establish common ground, and transform ideas into action.

Collaborative Spark specializes in convening large groups of people in civil dialogue and authentic conversations that build community and generate passion for creating deep systemic change. We help our clients harmonize the demand for results with the necessity of creating individual and collective meaning and purpose.

Collaborative Spark’s HONEST-TO-GOODNESS CONVERSATIONS Workshop is a day of skill-building, practice, and engagement during which participants:

  • Recognize and understand the power of ordinary conversations in developing relationships and creating organizational culture.
  • Understand, practice, and apply specific conversational skills that encourage individuals to take accountability for the whole organization.
  • Develop a Personal Action Plan for applying skills for Honest-to-Goodness Conversations.

As a founding member of Collaborative Spark, I’ve been encouraged by the enthusiastic participation of community members since our initial “spark” in Spring 2010.

CS1We worked with Project Civil Discourse in August 2010 to hold a World Café style community conversation on immigration that brought 150 people together to discuss their experiences and talk about what individuals can do to create the Arizona we want. Please download and read an editorial and op-ed from The Arizona Republic:

In September 2010, Collaborative Spark hosted an Open Space Strategy Session as part of “It’s Up to Me AZ: A Day of Civic Action.” The Open Space session moved the morning discussions about the Arizona Civic Health Index and the status of women in Arizona toward concrete and collaborative actions by asking, “If anything imaginable were possible, if there were no constraints whatsoever, how can we participate, collaborate and innovate to stimulate civic action in Arizona?”

Participants generated topics and focused on what they most cared about. After two hours of lively discussions, more than 20% of the participants committed to host further conversations on the most exciting ideas for stimulating civic action. Open Space is a non-hierarchical, transparent process that makes it easy for large groups to build on each other’s ideas and self-organize for action around meaningful issues and opportunities. It is a fun and dynamic way to release the wisdom of the many.

Our partners in “It’s Up to Me AZ” are the Arizona Foundation for Women, Arizona Town Hall, Center for the Future of Arizona, Girl Scouts—Arizona Cactus-Pine Council, and O’Connor House.

CS2The work of Collaborative Spark continued in October 2010 with “A Community Conversation on Immigration & Health Care in Arizona,” a gathering of 85 health and human services providers and community members, sponsored by the Asian & Pacific Islander American Health Forum and the Health Through Action Arizona Collaborative Partnership. During a morning World Café, participants talked about their experiences and identified their concerns and questions about the impact of Arizona’s immigration legislation on providing and receiving services. In the afternoon, a panel of experts in law and healthcare provided information and addressed questions.


"Now that I have experienced a conversation like this, I have the confidence and tools to do the same thing in my community."
Rich Doerrer-Peacock,
commenting on the Community
Conversation on Immigration
Copyright ©2004-2013 Sharon Flanagan-Hyde. All rights reserved.
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