3.8 Practical questions to address in community dialogue

Below are some basic questions to help you as a health professional in organising a successful community dialogue.

  1. Set the focus of the community dialogue

    It is helpful to start off with some key statements or questions as the starting point. For example:

    • There is a problem that I would like to understand better in discussion with the community members.
    • There is an issue in the community that people need to talk about. It could be an issue affecting children’s right to health, e.g. early marriage.
    • There are people in the community who could benefit from sharing their experiences on an existing community problem.
    • I would like to get the community to come together to tackle a common problem that is being faced in the community.
    • The time is ripe for change – people are ready to do something positive.
    • The ‘face’ of the community is changing, and people need to acknowledge and understand the changes in a more constructive light.

    Statements such as those above could explain the basis for which you, as a health professional, are planning to have a community dialogue. Depending on the focus of the issue at hand, you could then consider the following other steps:

  2. Ask yourself what the goals of the community dialogue would be. Some possible answers could include:
    • To improve the well-being of children in the community.
    • To influence attitudes of local law enforcement to address a community child rights problem.
    • To build partnerships across community structures handling children issues.
    • To use new innovations to solve a community problem.
    • To work on a community project together.
  3. Think about who should be included. Who should be in the dialogue? For example:
    • Men, women, children and youth in a given community that are directly or indirectly affected by the issue at hand that the dialogue plans to address.
    • Members of different religions in the community.
    • The school community – parents, teachers, administrators, and students.
    • Police and community members.
    • Business owners as these might be interested in supporting some processes aimed at addressing the problem.
    • Elected officials and community leaders representing the community.
  4. What format could you use? What type of discussion should we have? For example:
    • Small community groups meeting once or twice to discuss the issue.
    • A large public meeting with questions from the audience.
    • A year-long commitment among a group of key community leaders to study, reflect on and discuss community problems; this often is limiting as some of the key people in the community keep changing.

Key characteristics of community dialogue

3.9 Role of health worker in community mobilisation