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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 connecting by videoconference using the Living Room Conversations platform, and 2) larger groups at Town Halls, gathering in person and connecting with the other city by big-screen videoconference. See below for more information on both platforms.

Town Halls

Palo Alto and Bloomington kicked off their Town Hall series in Fall 2023.


Want to get involved? We are always seeking more community members and organizations to join in!  Email 


Community members help shape our discussion by: 

  • Defining the agenda

  • Selecting speakers

  • Spreading the word 

  • Following up with participants who want more discussion or projects


Interested?  Click here to register and view current info on our Events page.

Living Room Conversations
for small groups

Host a Small Group Discussion of Your Own!

Your group can be sponsored by an organization (e.g. League of Women Voters) or just three people from each city who want to join together to start a conversation.


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

1. Start by gathering up to 6 participants from your city and your sibling city (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.  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.

4. 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.

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

6.  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

7. 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.

8. Join or host more conversations!

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

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