Changing Faces, Changing Communities: Immigration & Race, Jobs, Schools, and Language Differences

Publication date – 1998 (2nd edition)
Developed by – Everyday Democracy (organization was known as Study Circles Resource Center when this curriculum was published)

Aims, objectives, and intended audience

Created following the 1992 Los Angeles civil unrest, this guide for public dialogue and problem solving is intended to engage small groups of 10-15 people (“study circles”) in conversations related to immigration and the impact of newcomers on receiving communities. The guide aims to promote honest and positive conversations between people of different racial and cultural backgrounds, thus encouraging local action, building community, and changing policy. The guide largely focuses on local community issues as opposed to national policy.

Broad structure and key educational methods

Changing Faces, Changing Communities is divided into a total of six sessions that address five main topics. Each session is structured to last approximately two hours. In some sessions, participants are presented with a range of viewpoints designed to help them locate their own beliefs as well as understand alternate perspectives. This educational strategy is used in three different sessions. Most sessions also include a short series of questions for participants to consider prior to the next gathering. Finally, one unique aspect of this curriculum is that one session is specifically devoted to meeting with public officials and discussing participants’ ideas and hopes related to immigration.

Key topics or themes by module

1. Session 1 – Who are we? The many faces of our community

The first session fosters the sharing of stories and views, thus allowing participants to learn about their peers lives and perspectives. The first hour is devoted to learning about participants’ own experiences through a series of discussion questions; the second portion of the session examines real-life issues through hypothetical vignettes.

2. Session 2 – How is our community changing?

The material for this session contains seven views related to how communities are changing due to immigration and the ways in which individuals and institutions are impacted by those changes. Participants are to discuss the various views, locate which one most closely aligns with their own perspective, and consider the ways in which their community has improved or faced new challenges due to immigration.

3. Session 3 – How are jobs and the economy changing in our community?

Structured like the previous session, the material contains six views related to how immigration has impacted job prospects and the economy in participants’ communities. The discussion mirrors the previous last session in which participants are to examine both the view that most closely relates to their own as well as the perspectives of others.

4. Session 4A – What should we do about immigration and community change?

As the first of a two-part session, this material devotes an entire page of text to each of four different views on immigration and lists example policies and actions that an individual with each view is likely to support. An extensive series of discussion questions follow the four views that allow participants to share their perspectives and consider the pros and cons of alternate viewpoints.

5. Session 4B – Meeting with Public Officials

This session incorporates public officials into the study circle to join in dialogue. Divided into three parts, the opening 30 minutes are devoted to preparing to meet with public officials and reiterating the ground rules for this interaction. The public officials then join the conversation, and 60-70 minutes are allocated to five focus questions that encapsulate the discussions that study circle participants have experienced over the course of these sessions. The final 15-30 minutes allow for the study circle participants and public officials to share what they have learned from each other.

6. Session 5 – Making a difference: What can we do in our community?

This final session focuses on brainstorming actions that may be taken related to issues and concerns participants have been sharing and addressing over the course of this curriculum. The materials contain a lengthy list of suggested actions that may be undertaken as individuals, as neighborhoods, and as a broader community. After considering ways in which they may make a difference and considering the logistics of proceeding with each, participants close out this study circles experience by sharing how the series of sessions has affected their lives.

These curricular materials also include extensive guidance for study circle leaders on how to organize and run a circle. There is also a list of organizations that may provide further discussion or action related to the topics of this study circle, as well as a list of publications on immigration and community change.

Curriculum acquisition information

This dialogue guide is available as a free download on Everyday Democracy’s Issue Guide Exchange. Accessing the document requires registering for a free account.

Everyday Democracy (formerly Study Circles Resource Center)
111 Founders Plaza, Suite 1403
East Hartford, CT 06108
Phone: 860-928-2616
Fax: 860-928-3713