What it’s for

  • Enabling ordinary people to get to grips with complex political problems
  • Encouraging grown-up conversations between voters and their representatives
  • Arriving at solutions to tricky planning problems
  • Helping users and providers to work together to improve public services like health and education.


Why it’s different

Too much political debate obscures rather than clarifies the issues. Too often it’s about smearing your opponents and polarizing the issues, pretending that there’s just one over-simple solution. Nearly always, the talking is monopolized by politicians and experts.
TALKSHOP is different. Trained facilitators ensure that everyone gets to take part and nobody gets shouted down. It’s designed to promote respect and consensus, to encourage people to listen as well as talk. Above all it’s safe and fun.

The Card Kit

For small groups of people (say up to 7), you can request a kit and run an event yourself – whether at home or in a cafe/ pub/ community centre. The kit comes with comprehensive instructions for you – the facilitator – along with cards containing facts, issues and opinions; and a questionairre so you can feed your conclusions into our final report. You can see what the cards look like in each of the Current Topics pages.

A Larger Event

A TALKSHOP larger event is for between 20 and 30 people and at least one facilitator. It typically takes two to three hours. The facilitator starts by getting everybody to introduce themselves, gets their agreement to some ground rules, and sets out the timetable for the event.

People sit at tables (up to a max of 7 per table) with a card kit for each table, and somebody is appointed as facilitator for that table. They first choose which of the 2-3 topics they want to discuss, and time is allocated for each. People use the cards and their own knowledge to discuss each topic. Sometimes they’re asked to note key things from their discussion. On other occasions a spokesperson for the table will report their findings to the whole group.

For help with arranging a session like this see How to Organise an Event.

Preference Voting

In some situations we hold before and after voting using a special form of preference voting – known as De Borda. We provide voting slips and a spreadsheet for counting the votes.

Facilitation Training

We encourage event sponsors to provide their own facilitators, which we will then train. Alternatively, we run training courses for facilitators. We believe that the skills of facilitation are crucial in building the new participative democracy we all seek; and we want as many people as possible to use these skills in all parts of their lives. It also helps us to grow faster.