Doing

Collaborative Project Toolkit

Kitchen table discussion

Overview

Kitchen table discussions are small, informal meetings held in a person’s home or in a coffee shop to discuss ideas, issues, and solutions related to the project. A host will remind the group about the ground rules— for example, no interrupting, there are no bad ideas, etc.—and identify a note taker. Generally there is no formal agenda; instead, the group may use a list of broad questions to guide their discussion. A main objective is to give interested parties an opportunity to learn from and share with each other, create a sense of community, and discuss options and alternatives. This method is appropriate for low, medium, and high levels of conflict.

  • Use it if: You want to foster a deep sense of community and a social network among your stakeholders, or you want to gather feedback, come up with options, and build alliances with a small group.
  • Don’t use it if: You need to get feedback from a large number of stakeholders in a short time period.
  • When to use it: At the beginning of your project. The scoping and planning phases are the best time to implement this strategy because later stages of the project will most likely require more formalized, or at least more transparent, discussions.
  • Ideal number of participants: 2 to 9

Skills & knowledge

  • Small group facilitation
  • Recording
  • Conflict management

Tips for success

  • Provide a set of fairly broad questions that you’d like kitchen table discussion groups to answer.
  • Make sure that the host or designated note taker vets summary notes with discussion participants.

Resources

This guide provides a framework and questions for a kitchen table discussion to gather input on the development of a land use plan: Marsh Lake Local Area Plan Kitchen Table Meeting Discussion Guide.