What is it? A search conference is a collaborative planning session that can be used with a fairly large group to develop concrete actions for the future. While the approach can be adapted for use in varied settings, a search conference typically includes five distinct steps with a carefully identified set of participants around a specific community issue or shared problem. First, the identified participants share their interpretations of the issue and its history in a group dialogue. Second, facilitators guide the group in establishing a common vision. Participants next engage in creative problem-solving, to identify a range of possible approaches. Fourth, the group collectively prioritizes which ideas for change are best or most important. Finally, leaders help the group link these ideas to specific actions, which participants then volunteer to lead. This search conference process represents a comprehensive planning session that taps into the creativity of a group and results in definitive actions.
How has it been used? A group of community members, government actors, transportation professionals and others met in Salt Lake City, Utah to talk about the future of urban mobility. They looked at how to overcome transportation challenges in Utah. To begin, the group examined the current transportation system and identified possible changes. By the end, participants decided to better support freedom of choice in transportation through increased access to alternative transportation. The group also decided to advocate for improved communication and technology in public transportation as a way of improving access. The event provided an example of how a search conference may help a group study their external environment, identify possible goals, and decide on tactics to reach those aims. (Source: Future Search)