21st Century Town Meeting

AmericaSpeaks 21st Century Town Meetings® are powerful and engaging forums that articulate participants’ priorities on critical organizational, local, state or national policies.  Our unique process combines neutral materials with a well-crafted program that offers people the space to deliberate and vote on what matters most to them. A 21st Century Town Meeting can be used to convene thousands of people simultaneously in one location or across multiple locations.

21st Century Town Meetings include the following elements:

Informed, facilitated discussion. Participants sit at tables of 8-10 people. The lead facilitator or a public leader presents key facts about the issue from the main stage, and then trained facilitators guide the conversation at each table as participants discuss the questions posed.

Participatory technology. We utilize transparent, democratic technologies to make sure every voice in the room is heard:

  • A computer on every tables serves as an “electronic flipchart” to record general table agreements;
  • The table agreements are instantly transmitted to a “Theme Team”, which reads all the entries to identify the strongest themes. These overarching themes are displayed and are quickly presented to all the participants;
  • Individuals use their individual voting keypads to vote on what they believe are the most important priorities.

Collective prioritization that enables action. The theming and voting process quickly summarizes participants’ priorities and identifies areas of general agreement.  The results of each keypad poll are instantly displayed on screen and are then summarized in a report that is distributed to participants at the conclusion of the event.

These results can be widely disseminated through media coverage and should be used to inform policy development and implementation.

This meeting methodology has been conducted on a diverse set of issues ranging from rebuilding Ground Zero in NYC to childhood obesity, and from community planning in Owensboro, KY to balancing the nations’ budget.


To learn more about the 21st Century Town Meeting Process and its outcomes, read about our past projects.


Stakeholder Summits

While the 21st Century Town Meeting was originally developed for citizen-government interaction, we often apply this model to stakeholder engagement.

Learn more about Stakeholder Summits here.