Part of why the planning process can be challenging is because many of the decisions can set the tone for subsequent activities. Decisions such as where to convene, who to involve, and how to do outreach and advertising can greatly influence how prospective participants view the efforts being planned. Among the basic logistical considerations that project participants raised were:
1. How will perspective participants learn about the event? What kind of outreach will occur, and to whom will those efforts be targeted, if at all?
2. How many events, how frequently, and over what span of time?
3. What day of the week, and what time of day should the event be held? How does this time/day work with respect to prospective participants’ schedules?
4. How long should each session last? What is the right amount of time for our group that allows us to dig into some deeper issues without dragging on too long?
5. What locations/spaces are available? Will participants be able to travel to the location easily? Will all participants find this location fairly “neutral” (not biased towards one group over any others)?
To illustrate, in one initiative, the organizers experienced a challenge due to hosting their event in a church. The organizers decided to convene immigrants and African Americans for a series of intergroup dialogues. The event was intended for solely that audience; however, to the organizers’ surprise, several white people showed up as well. Given that the event location was a church, the organizers were reluctant to exclude anyone, but this affected the tone of the dialogues by making participants more hesitant to share openly. Thus, all details of dialogue logistics need to be carefully considered in order to maximize opportunities for successful intergroup work.
Another challenge articulated by several project participants is deciding on an “ideal” number of participants. For smaller-scale events, particularly if they are dialogic in nature, organizers often indicated that having between 12 and 16 participants was best because it allows participants a chance to get to know each other more intimately and delve more deeply into conversations than larger groups are able to. Conversely, other community education initiatives are well equipped to handle large crowds, and may employ small break-out group discussions in order to achieve a similar sense of interpersonal connection.