What are kitchen table conversations?

Welcome to Voices of Warringah

Many people in the electorate of Warringah are disheartened with the current political process and what it says about our democracy.

Rather than sliding into despair, we believe that each one of us can play a constructive role in lifting standards of behaviour, focusing on ideas and policies and strengthening the way we are represented.

The Voices of Warringah committee was set up by a group of people in Warringah to provide a simple and effective process by which people across the electorate can give voice – where their interests, concerns and ideas are heard, respected and taken up by candidates presenting for election.

Such a process will help to create an electorate with a range of strong and competitive candidates; and develop leadership with vision that truly represents and delivers for the people of Warringah.

We are a non-partisan group. We’re interested in getting better outcomes from our democracy, and representation that reflects who we are and what is important to us.

Kitchen Table Conversations are simple and powerful – helping people discuss what really matters in a comfortable environment. Hosts (who are self-selecting) invite small groups to have conversations based on focused themes. Participants might be friends, neighbours, family, workmates or people known from community networks. The conversations are usually shaped around starter questions.

Everyone is welcome to participate. But the key to this happening is a number of people stepping forward and agreeing to host a ‘kitchen table conversation’. These people then bring together small groups of up to 9 others, but can be fewer. These might be friends, neighbours, family, workmates, or people they know from community networks. They meet around the kitchen table, their workplace, or wherever is easiest for them. The only proviso is the place needs to be quiet enough for everyone to be heard easily.

The hosts facilitate a conversation for a couple of hours focused on the three themes included in this pack. Participants’ ideas and thoughts will be collated by the hosts and forwarded to the Voices of Warringah team for processing and integrating with all the other conversations throughout the electorate.

The Steps to Hosting a Kitchen Table Conversation

  • Set a meeting date
  • Invite up to nine friends/family/colleagues/neighbours/community members to you home or other suitable venue.
  • Collect contact details for the group
  • Facilitate the discussion
  • Ensure there is a summary of the opinions and ideas of your group and that it is forwarded to the Voices of Warringah committee at info@voicesofwarringah.org.au

Invite participants to register on the website if they are interested in becoming involved in our movement

  • Create a positive ripple – suggest that participants talk about their discussions and the ideas that emerged with other people at work or home or in their community.

Handy Tips for Hosting the Kitchen Table Conversation

  • Explain the Voices of Warringah (VOW) process and the reporting back to VOW at events@voicesofwarringah.org.au 
  • Fill in the attendance stats sheet
  • Ask participants to introduce themselves and say briefly why they have come to be part of the conversation
  • Appoint a scribe – someone from the group who is able to track the discussion and capture it in as much detail as possible and not be selective
  • The group does not have to reach consensus! What is important is that people feel as though they have been able to contribute their ideas and opinions – and for these to be recorded faithfully.
  • Make sure you allocate enough time for each of the suggested conversation starters.
  • Ask people if they are happy to have their photo taken and send them to info@voicesofwarringah.org.au
  • Give people an opportunity to sign up to Voices Of Warringah. (We find doing it on the spot is most effective).
  • Sit down with your scribe straight after the meeting and flesh out the meeting’s content as much as you can while you both have it foremost in your minds – and then develop the written summary by referring to the Discussion Starters that are listed in the next section. Naturally, if there happened to be additional discussion beyond these Discussion Starters, it is important that this is captured as well.
  • Send results, attendance stat sheet and any photos to events@voicesofwarringah.org.au

Some Simple and Effective Ground Rules for Running the Meeting

Meetings full of people with good intent can still come unstuck. A simple and balanced set of ground rules will go a long way to achieving a productive meeting.

It is important the host establishes the ground rules as soon as introductions are over. The following five such rules are tried and well-tested:

  • We accept that everyone is entitled to have a say
  • We will make the effort to listen to one another
  • We respect people’s right to their opinions, even if we disagree
  • We will try at all times to be constructive
  • We will try to stay on track

It is important that people at the meetings are provided with the chance to hear these suggested ground rules; and that they indicate their willingness to adhere to them during the course of the discussion. If necessary, the host can draw people’s attention back to them all or some in particular.

Voices of Warringah acknowledge the The Victorian Women’s Trust and Voices for Indi in creating and refining the Kitchen Table Conversation model.