It’s time to come together.
We believe meaningful conversation over food
can spark real and lasting change.
Civic Dinners is the platform that brings people together to have conversations that matter. With the help of technology, we help people transform dinner tables into forums for positive social change. By providing a simple framework for conversations that matter, anyone, anywhere, can use Civic Dinners as a tool for organizing and action.
HOW A CIVIC DINNER WORKS
6 - 10 DIVERSE GUESTS
3 BIG QUESTIONS
AT A TIME
It's time for conversations that matter.
Civic Dinners works with cities, regions, nonprofits and thought leaders to design and manage community conversations.
WE DESIGN MEANINGFUL CONVERSATIONS AROUND BIG ISSUES
WE HELP BRING DIVERSE VOICES AND PERSPECTIVES
TO THE TABLE
WE HELP BUILD COMMUNITY THROUGH SHARED VALUES & VISIONS
WE HELP MOTIVATE AND MOBILIZE ACTION TOWARDS
WHY IT WORKS
Breaking bread helps break down silos
There’s something universal and essentially human about sharing food together. When we break bread, we break down silos, and build new bridges. When our most basic needs for sustenance, safety and community are met, we are in an ideal state to open our hearts and minds to others, and listen to different perspectives.
A structured format creates a safe space for sharing
A Civic Dinner follows a simple structure, with 6-10 people gathering over a meal to discuss a specific topic. The host follows a simple guide with three big questions, allowing everyone equal time to share with one voice at a time. This format is designed to avoid debate or dominant voices, and instead encourages listening and understanding of different perspectives.
Our technology allows us to scale to any dinner table
The Civic Dinners platform allows partners to launch community conversations in targeted geographies, and makes it easy for anyone to host and anyone to attend. Our platform makes it easy for hosts by streamlining the dinner creation process, providing host support, automatic emails, guest confirmations, reminders and follow-up actions. Hosts simply select the date, time, location (restaurant or private space), potluck or set menu. After the dinner, a follow-up email captures ideas, feedback, stories and next steps.
OVER 1350 CIVIC DINNERS ACROSS THE WORLD SO FAR
From Atlanta to Minneapolis to Vancouver to Wellington New Zealand, Civic Dinners have been happening in homes and in restaurants all across the world. And we've only just begun.
OUR APPROACH TO CIVIC ENGAGEMENT
For us at Civic Dinners, civic engagement is all about relationships. Too often, organizations and institutions jump straight to action, whether that’s asking people for feedback on a plan, asking donors for money, or asking citizens to sign a petition or to go vote. This strategy can be short sighted and feel merely transactional.
We understand the value of developing real relationships with core stakeholders, whether they are citizens, donors, super-volunteers or parents. That's why we use the art of conversation to build stronger relationships, develop deeper understandings of complex issues, create spaces to hear diverse perspectives and inspire collective action.
Our goal is to create stronger social and civic infrastructures in neighborhoods, communities and cities.
HOW YOUR ORGANIZATION OR CITY CAN BENEFIT FROM CIVIC DINNERS
WHO WE WORK WITH
CITIES & REGIONS
We work with cities, regions and nations and even intergovernmental coalitions to launch conversations on a wide range of civic and social issues. From Atlanta to New Zealand, we work with local governments and regional commissions to help build community visions and a stronger overall civic infrastructure. Interested? Get in touch.
NONPROFITS & COALITIONS
We work with nonprofits, social movements, foundations, leadership networks and coalitions to help raise awareness and galvanize action around significant issues. Our platform makes it easy to launch and manage self-organized dinners as a way to engage volunteers, donors, advocates and civic leaders. Interested? Get in touch.
We work with companies who have a heart, who are industry leaders, who want to build authentic relationships in their communities and who want to hear from everyday citizens. We work with select companies to engage their employees in conversations that matter, from racial equity to gender equity to immigration and more. Interested? Get in touch.
URBAN PLANNERS AND COMMUNITY DEVELOPERS
We work with Community Improvement Districts (CIDs), master planning firms, architecture firms and developers as their creative engagement partner to help make sure the values, visions and needs of residents are heard as part of the master planning process. Interested? Get in touch.
Our platform is what powers our conversations to scale locally, regionally, nationally and even globally. The platform is designed specifically for the easy management of self-organized dinners, complete with easy dinner creation, RSVP management, automatic emails, reminders and follow-up actions.
We work with partners to design custom conversations around critical topics and issues. How an issue is framed matters greatly. Through our tested method, we help partners frame the conversation and create generous questions that capture the imagination, bring out personal stories, identify common values, and motivate and mobilize action.
HOST ENGAGEMENT STRATEGY
As you know with community conversations, making sure hosts feel comfortable and confident is key to your success. Our award-winning engagement process embeds the core principles of community organizing and we have loads of examples of what works (and what doesn't work) when encouraging your biggest fans to host a dinner on your behalf.
When cities, regions and organizations are ready to invite everyday citizens to the table, we have a tried and true marketing plan ready to deploy as well as a boatload of fun and social graphics for use on social media platforms. Our team can design custom graphics, card decks, gifs, videos, buttons and even tote bags that can help get the word out about your community conversation.
ACTIONS & REPORTING
What happens after a few months of food and conversation can be extraordinary. Our past successes include action teams passing critical legislation, launching nonprofits and new leaders running for office for the first time. Civic Dinners offers a range of services to from comprehensive reports with key findings and recommendations from the dinners, award-winning videos that capture the voices and perspectives of those involved, to action team development and management, to leadership development, op-ed writing workshops and summit planning and execution.
Civic Dinners was founded by Jenn Graham and Thomas Stokell in 2016.
Founder & CEO
Jenn is the founder of Civic Dinners, a civic engagement platform that uses technology to bring diverse voices to the table for face-to-face conversations that matter. Also as CEO of Aha! Strategy, Jenn works with civic leaders to design issue-based campaigns and place-based strategies that move the needle on critical civic and social issues.
Recently, Jenn led the award-winning strategy for the Atlanta Regional Commission’s New Voices: Millennial Advisory Panel which used Civic Dinners to engage young leaders in designing the future of the Atlanta region. In 2015, Jenn co-led the Great Exchange on Transportation in Gwinnett County, designing a text-based survey that enabled the largest conversation on transportation, with 4,000 responses in one week. Prior, she rebranded and reorganized Atlanta Streets Alive, now one of the largest open streets event in the country.
Her work has received awards and recognition from President Obama, The Atlantic, American Planning Association, Urban Land Institute and the Public Relations Society of America. In 2016, Jenn was recognized by the Atlanta Business Chronicle as one of the 40 under 40, one of ten “Outstanding Atlanta” honorees, graduated from the Regional Leadership Institute Class of 2016 and graduated as a 2017 New Leaders Council Atlanta Fellow. Jenn is currently a 2017-2018 Civic Innovation Atlanta Fellow. Jenn holds a BSBA from Kenan-Flagler Business School at the University of North Carolina, a graduate degree in Design from Portfolio Center, and an Executive Education Certificate from Harvard Kennedy School of Government in Leadership, Organizing and Action.
Thomas Stokell is a technology entrepreneur who works to make social change scaleable. He is also the Founder of Love to Ride - the online platform that gets more people bicycling. Thomas brought together the team who designed and built the Civic Dinners platform and worked with Jenn on the business strategy.
The concept behind Civic Dinners originally grew out of a dinner party project in Atlanta which was developed collaboratively by Jenn Graham, Dar Vanderbeck and Katharine Wilkinson in 2014.
The first proof of concept applying dinners to policy change was in partnership with the Atlanta Regional Commission's Millennial Advisory Panel in 2015. This initiative gathered national attention and set the stage for a new form of civic engagement, and confirmed the need for a global platform. Special thanks to Julie Ralston, Doug Hooker and Liz Sanford and the entire ARC strategic partnerships team.
Then in 2016, Civic Dinners participated in Goodie Nation's hackathon, gathering a team of designers, developers, project managers and volunteers. Special thanks to Han Pham, Dane Wetschler, Joey Womack, Lauren Langley, Leslie Langley and more.
And thank you to hundreds of hosts, who have volunteered their time, opened up their homes and brought people together for conversations that matter. Without you and your passion, Civic Dinners wouldn't exist.