At its core, collaboration refers to the engagement of stakeholders in order to create an environment conducive for solving complex issues with plausible solutions for which they take responsibility – and catalyzing the contributions and assets of stakeholders into action.

Collaboration involves purposeful dialogue and deliberation designed to stimulate ideas and implementation of agreed-upon community action and priorities. A few of the tools designed to help you reach this goal include:

Study circles

are a technique used to foster collaboration through exploration, deliberation and collective action. Study circles are a great to use in large group settings where the whole group can be divided into small deliberation groups and then return as a collective whole for an "Action Forum." A strength of study circles is that they allow for people of various socioeconomic classes and ethnicities to engage in dialogue and deliberation in order to brainstorm an array of potential solutions for the issue at hand. The series of dialogues are meant to spur the entire group to reach a collective decision and seek to have action taken on the decision (NCDD, 2010).

Community task force

can be used as a tool to engage citizens in discussion on a particular community issue. The group should be relatively small and consist of local volunteers who are major players involved in or effected by a local issue (Bassler et al, 2008). The task force can participate in a community project in a variety of ways including: identifying the issue, collecting information, brainstorming solutions/alternatives, creating an action plan, and implementing the action plan. In order to make the purpose of the task force clear, the group is usually given a specific responsibility. Often community task forces hold focus groups, conduct surveys or participate in research in order to gain more knowledge on a local issue. A community task force is particularly useful in engaging local citizens because it allows a diverse group of community members to collaborate, brainstorm, and create plausible solutions for issues that are closely related to them (Bassler et al, 2008).

Electronic Methods of Deliberation

Increasing numbers of businesses, households, and organizations have access to the Internet and email. Online access allows you to engage a larger portion of the public, in multiple ways, in discussions concerning community issues. Websites, discussion boards, list serves, bulletin boards, and video-teleconferencing provide avenues for individuals to access background materials and engage with experts and other participants (sometimes from far away) to offer suggestions, give recommendations, discuss options, and identify preferences. Electronic access can also help participants overcome barriers to participation, such as geographic location or availability. (Bassler et al, 2008).


"Resource Guide on Public Engagement." National Coalition for Dialogue and Deliberation (NCDD), 2010.

Bassler, A. et al., "Developing Effective Citizen Engagement: A How-to Guide for Community Leaders." Center for Rural America, 2008.