West Virginia Center for Civic Life

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The West Virginia. Center for Civic Life is a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization that helps engage our citizens in community discussions of important public issues that affect our state and nation.

Think. Talk. Act.

Reporting on community discussions

Convening and moderating community dialogues are important steps in supporting an engaged public, but much of the value could be lost unless the insights revealed in the discussions are captured and reported back to the participants, the community, and appropriate organizations and officials.

Why report on community discussions?

Reporting on public discussions:

  • enables the discussion organizers to be accountable to the discussion participants by sharing with them a summary of their deliberations;
  • engages people who did not attend the discussions to join in ongoing dialogue about the issue;
  • informs policymakers about how the public views the issue and the trade-offs they are and are not willing to accept; and
  • illustrates the nature and benefits of public dialogue as a way for people to work together on a wide variety of public problems in their communities.

Features of a useful report on community discussions

Whereas an opinion survey is a snapshot of people’s thinking at a given point in time, a community dialogue resembles a movie that reveals how people’s thinking takes form as they deliberate.  A useful report on public dialogues will:

  • represent the diverse perspectives that people bring to the issue in a fair and respectful manner;
  • describe shifts in people’s thinking as they talk with one another;
  • examine what people think should be done about the issue as they
  • consciously recognize the difficulties and trade-offs in all approaches; and
  • summarize any shared sense of direction, as well as areas of disagreement.


Example of a forum report on community discussions across West Virginia on economic insecurity: Making Ends Meet

A guide to developing reports on community dialogues: Capturing Public Thinking