Plan a Discussion

Once you've identified a group who is ready for civic reflection and arranged all the practical details, you can begin to plan your discussion. This section is intended to help you think about ways to structure your conversation. For more detailed support, CCR runs workshops which help people develop skills and confidence in leading civic reflection discussions.

Smiling training participant as she plans a discussion

Big Question

Once you know who you will be leading a discussion for, it is useful to think about the big questions, issues or themes that you want to help your group to explore.

  • What questions are rumbling underneath your group’s common activity that often get overlooked or ignored?
  • What themes or issues do you think your participants will want to explore in a civic reflection discussion?

Themes & Big Questions: View our list of themes and related big questions with associated resources.


Civic reflection discussions can use a variety of objects to spark and deepen conversation. Whether you use an image, a reading, a video or something else entirely, these objects act as a common point of reference to help participants talk more comfortably and with greater depth about the theme or big question being discussed.

When selecting your object, you may want to think about the following things:

Resonance vs. Relevance

It's tempting to pick resources that address your chosen theme directly -- an education policy paper, for example, if you are leading a discussion with teachers on "What makes learning happen?" Although relevant, this resource could fail to offer people the space to think about the issues they're discussing in fresh and interesting ways. You may want to opt for an object that resonates with the concerns of the group and approaches them from a different angle. Rather than an educational policy paper, the poem, "Learning the Trees" could be a good choice.


To encourage a fruitful discussion, you will want to select an object that encourages multiple perspectives and interpretations. For example, rather than an inspirational text with a message that's difficult to disagree with, you might look for an object that is complex enough to bring a range of voices and opinions into the conversation.


You will want to think about how accessible your chosen object is to everyone in the room. Are there words, images or ideas that people might be unfamiliar with or that could offend some of those in the room? The object should spark conversation, not alienate or exclude participants.

  • What resource or object will you use to get at this question and why?
  • Are there any challenges involved in your choice of resource? How will you deal with these?
  • Will you ask the group to read aloud, watch the video together, or look at an image as a group? Will this be in the discussion, or beforehand?

Resource Library: Browse over 300 readings, images and videos with sample discussion questions to help you think about what object(s) you want to use to get a discussion going.


Civic Reflection is not part of most people’s daily routines. Thinking about how you will introduce yourself and the activity, as well as how you will ask participants to introduce themselves, can be crucial to setting the right tone for the discussion.

  • How will you introduce yourself? How will you ask participants to introduce themselves?
  • How will you introduce the activity, and what expectations--if any--will you set out?

What is Civic Reflection?: See an overview of civic reflection to help you think about how you might introduce the practice in your own words.


After introductions, it is important to consider how you will help participants settle into the conversation. You might want to think about how you can get people to start making personal connections to the theme or big question at hand and how to ensure that every voice in the room is heard right away.

  • How will you open the discussion? Will you have an opening exercise or question?
  • Will you ask people to pair up or share altogether as a group?

Discussion Plans: Browse hundreds of sample discussion plans with suggestions for opening activities.

Facilitator Summaries: Read about the openings that have sparked great conversations for other facilitators.

Develop Questions

Every group is different and no discussion goes entirely according to script. However, no matter the group, you will want to think in advance about the questions you might ask to get the discussion flowing.

Thinking about three broad types of question can be helpful:

  • Clarification: What is going on here?
  • Interpretation: What do you think of what is going on here?
  • Implication: How does what you think of what's going on here connect to your work, community or values?

Learn more about how to write and ask good questions here.

Resources: Browse hundreds of resources with sample discussion questions.

Discussion Plans: Browse discussions plans with sample discussion questions.

Facilitator Summaries: Read about the questions that have sparked great conversations for other facilitators.


You will want to wrap up the conversation in a way that doesn't seek consensus or stifle the questions that have been raised, but simply marks the end of your time together as a group.

  • How will you draw the conversation to a close? What kind of closing exercise, if any, will you use?

Discussion plans: Browse hundreds of sample discussion plans with suggestions for closing activities

Facilitator Summaries: Read about the closings that have worked well for other facilitators

Planning Outline: Use this simple outline to help you gather your thoughts, think about the parts of the discussion explained above, and plan for your discussion.