Our society is rife with challenging problems for our communities to solve–from public health, to environmental justice and beyond. A neighborhood might identify the need to address flooding challenges impacting their community. Or a group may want to gather and brainstorm how to improve food access in their city. As neighbors come together to solve community problems, we’ve been asking: How can museums and science & technology centers partner with communities as equals on local challenges?
Solutions to community problems lie within the communities themselves. That is why we’ve been working to develop a set of tools that can help our members and our members’ communities work toward solving big-picture problems together, through an approach called Dialogue & Deliberation. After months of collaboration with numerous community partners, and hosting a 12-month fellowship program, we are so excited to present to you ASTC’s new Community Science Dialogue & Deliberation toolkit.
Dialogue & Deliberation is an approach to community science where facilitated conversations bring community members together to discuss a relevant topic and options for addressing it. This set of tools from ASTC helps to dig into issues at the intersection of science and society–bringing groups of people who share common interests and goals together. Through Dialogue & Deliberation, individuals and organizations can delve into real issues impacting their communities and deepen mutual understanding to facilitate the development of collaborative solutions.
When employed well, Dialogue & Deliberation elevates diverse voices, enhances mutual understanding and empathy, and produces actionable, equitable solutions. It can also offer science engagement practitioners the opportunity to partner with a community to tackle pressing and controversial questions. Here are a few examples of Dialogue & Deliberation in action at museums and science & technology centers:
- The Oregon Museum of Science and Industry worked with youth-focused organization Momentum Alliance and Portland Metro to develop youth-led policy workshops and engage with policymakers around climate change.
- The National History Museum of Los Angeles and Nature for All examined ways that local green spaces can be made more accessible to diverse communities to improve human and environmental health.
- The Museum of Life and Science in Durham, NC partnered with local affordable housing groups, unhoused families, and policymakers to better understand and help solve the affordable housing crisis in Durham.
You can treat this toolkit like a roadmap to help you navigate Dialogue & Deliberation resources from several civic engagement and science engagement organizations. These resources will guide you through foundational questions and considerations for planning Dialogue & Deliberation initiatives on topics relevant to local communities.
We hope you’re as excited to explore this toolkit as we were to create it! Click here to learn more about spearheading a Dialogue & Deliberation initiative in your community.
We extend our thanks to the ASTC Community Science Dialogue & Deliberation Fellows for sharing their experiences designing and implementing Dialogue & Deliberation events through a set of videos featured in the toolkit, with a special thanks to Alyssa Johnson (Sciencenter in Ithaca, New York), Claudia Martinez (International Museum of Art & Science in McAllen, Texas), and Aya Yamamoto (California Academy of Sciences in San Francisco) who helped the ASTC team outline key messages and develop talking points.
Many thanks to the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative for their support of this new program!