Oak Park is talking... and we are listening, hosting Community Conversations to gain public knowledge about Oak Park.

Watch video on Turning Outward, introduced by Executive Director David Seleb, from the 2014 American Library Association Annual Conference in Las Vegas.

What are Community Conversations?

Community Conversations bring diverse people of the community together for “kitchen-table” discussions: everyone participates and all contributions are respected. The leader of these discussions asks a series of specific questions, questions that build upon each other and that are developed to reveal people’s deepest aspirations for their community. Through these dialogues, organizations gain public knowledge: knowledge about the aspirations of their community, knowledge that can lead to meaningful and purposeful action.

The Harwood Institute for Public Innovation developed Community Conversations as a method of community engagement. The American Library Association recognizes the potential of the Harwood method and turning outward to show libraries how to transform their communities. It has partnered with the Institute to teach this method to library leaders.

Why is the library leading Community Conversations?

It is no longer sufficient for the library to report on our outputs as a measurement of our success. We must be able to tell the story of our impact on the community we serve, to demonstrate the difference we make in people’s lives, to create or recreate the kind of community people want. This is what Harwood is designed to do – to engage and to transform communities.

Want to have or host a Community Conversation?

If you want to get more involved by either attending or hosting a future conversation, we'd love to hear from you. Please email David Seleb directly at dseleb@oppl.org. Know the most productive and engaging conversations take about 90 minutes and include one facilitator asking questions to a group of eight to 12 participants. There are no wrong answers. The questions asked are always the same, and the insights revealed are often inspiring.

What have we learned to date?