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Civil Discourse

Civil Discourse is key to Sibling Cities relationships.


Our Goals for getting Americans talking across regional divides are:


  • To help Americans listen to each other with curiosity and respect

  • To build understanding, recognize our common challenges, and share potential solutions

We do this through 1) small groups using the Living Room Conversations platform, and 2) larger groups at Town Halls. In both settings, residents in the same city can gather in person and connect with those in the other city by videoconference. 

Town Halls

Want to get involved? Palo Alto and Bloomington are kicking off their Town Hall series this fall. We are seeking community members and organizations to join our Working Groups on each of our 3 topics:  

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Community members in each Working Group will help shape our discussion by: 

  • Choosing the time and place for the Town Halls

  • Selecting a spokesperson from each city with a background related to the topic

  • Preparing discussion questions for the spokespersons and attendees

  • Spreading the word about the event to their networks and the broader communities in order to welcome a diversity of participants


Interested?  Click here to view involvement details and the most current info on our Events page

Living Room Conversations
for small groups

Host a Small Group Discussion of Your Own!

Your group can be a formal organization or just three people from each city who want to join together to start a conversation.


It's easy -- here is a step-by-step guide:

1. Start by gathering participants from your organization and your sibling counterpart (some groups may wish to start with a locals-only discussion to get comfortable with the format first).  It is helpful to watch Excerpts from a Living Room Conversation on “The America We Want to Be,” at

2.  Choose your topic.  Our recommended starter topics are:

The Living Room Conversations website has myriad additional topics, as well as recommended pathways to more challenging conversations.  

3.  Break into groups of no more than six people, balanced between the two cities if it’s not a locals-only conversation. 


4.  Follow the instructions on the LRC web page for your topic. Some groups find it helpful to select a host to facilitate the conversation, starting with Introductions: Why We're Here (~10 min).  Each participant has 1 minute to introduce themselves:  Share your name, where you live, what drew you here, and if this is your first conversation.


5. Read Conversation Agreements:  How We'll Engage (~5 min).  These will set the tone of your conversation; participants take turns reading them aloud. (Click here for the full conversation agreements.)

  •  Be curious and listen to understand.

  •  Show respect and suspend judgment.

  •  Note any common ground as well as any differences.

  •  Be authentic and welcome that from others.

  •  Be purposeful and to the point.

  •  Own and guide the conversation.


6. Select a group member to read the opening paragraph about the topic.

7.  Question Rounds:  What To Talk About 

Optional: a participant can keep track of time and gently let people know when their time
has elapsed.

Round 1:  Getting to Know Each Other (~10 min)
Each participant can take 1-2 minutes to answer one of these questions:
Round 2:  Questions about the Selected Topic (~40 min)
Each participant takes ~2 minutes each to answer a question below without interruption
or crosstalk. After everyone has answered, the group may take a few minutes to clarify
or follow up questions/responses. Continue exploring additional questions as time
Round 3:  Reflecting on the Conversation (~15 min)
Take 2 minutes to answer one of the questions

8. Fill out our follow-up survey so we can monitor how it’s going. We’ll aggregate the
feedback and share it at our upcoming Town Halls.

9. Join or host more conversations!

We are delighted that you are joining us to build bridges across our regional divides and
we can’t wait to hear about your conversations.

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