Enabling change in our Society, Environment and Economy (SEE)

Voices of the People

Kitchen Table Conversations

During 2015 SEE-Change supported Kitchen Table Conversations.

How do kitchen table conversations work?

A small group of 8 to 10 people meet in a quiet space for 2 to 3 hours to share their views and concerns and to explore their needs related to a particular topic. There may be as few as one or as many as 200 groups having these conversations.

On the first occasion each person speaks on the matters that are of importance to them. Everyone has a say, everyone is listened to.

A scribe summarises the results and sends them to the participants.

Participants may decide to meet more than once, perhaps to focus on taking action to promote goals and improve things.

Two meetings generally provides a simple and effective way for people to give voice in a place where all interests, concerns and ideas are heard and respected – not just the issues promoted by politicians and lobby groups.

At the meetings people share their cares and concerns, hopes and dreams, and in doing so build a powerful sense of community and inter-connected­ness. These conversations provide a means to create an informed and active electorate and to identify and start to implement solutions. They also have the potential to influence our leaders with a vision that truly represents citizens.

Canberra Kitchen Table Conversations coordinated by Belconnen SEE-Change

The Kitchen Table Conversation (KTC) project was launched on Tuesday 23 September 2014 with a 2 hour public meeting inviting and showing people how to become a host for a Conversation.

Eighty people from across Canberra attended and about twenty people went on to become a host for a KTC.

KTCs involving approximately 180 people from across Canberra were held between September and November 2014. These conversations reflected on five questions:

  • What is important to you?
  • What are your hopes for the future?
  • What are your concerns?
  • What needs to change?
  • How can we make change happen?

The process concentrated specifically on dialogue and respectful listening – not debate or advocacy, and consensus was not sought.

On the 3 December 2014, 25 hosts and organisers held a debrief on what worked well, what hosts learned about the process and what could be done differently.

The room was enlivened by a sense of public participation and open source democracy at work.

In sharing their experiences, the hosts and scribes described their satisfaction at the Kitchen Table Conversation process and their keenness to move to the next stage of discussion and action both within their own groups and in the broader Canberra community.

A universal experience was initial nervousness about opening up discussions with friends and neighbours on the issues which concern them, and then great satisfaction and relief at the communication that followed as people talked freely about the issues that were impacting on their lives.

On Tuesday 24 February 2015, the Voices of the People in Kitchen Table Conversations Report was released.

Results of the Canberra KTCs

At the end of the kitchen table conversations coordinated by Belconnen SEE-Change in November 2014, each group sent a record of their conversation to the Coordination Group.

The coordinators produced a consolidated report of what the participants in the groups were thinking about and wanting to do.

With assistance from ACTCOSS, this has been published as a report called Voices of the People  and has been delivered back to each group.

You can read either the full A4 Report or the A5 Executive Summary downloadable from the links below.

You can learn more about this initiative by reading the article by Ross Peake in The Canberra Times:

What can you do now?

  • Run your own KTC using the Host Kit above
  • Get involved in the Canberra Alliance who will be conducting more KTC’s in the near future
  • Share the report with your community and talk about what they want


With thanks to our


  • ACT Government Environment and Planning
  • The Association of Independent Schools of the ACT (AISACT)
  • Catholic Education Office (Archdiocese of Canberra and Goulburn)
  • Education and Training Directorate
  • ACT Government