The Community Forum Model is a StarSpirit International, Inc. innovation that addresses the crisis in our regional, national, and international community, doing so by allowing groups of members of the general public (or in a specific community or organizational setting) to come together and dialogue. StarSpirit Community Forums reflect our commitment to providing empowerment programs for women, men, and youth, so that community members can engage in the self-determination of their own growth and development

Community Forum Guiding Principles

Principles guiding the Community Forum Model are based both in African Health Wisdom (i.e., provide an experience of equality and respect, foster freedom of expression and the exercise of free will in taking action, attain unity, harmony, and interdependence, and, produce healing by virtue of the three prior guiding principles), and evidence-based principles for moving people toward taking autonomous action on their own. The model has been deployed, so far, with audiences of largely African Americans, as well as in a conference setting with a very diverse urban group. We are open to bringing the community forum model to your organization, group, or conference—typically providing a very meaningful and empowering experience that spurs the taking of action.

Providing an experience of equality and respect is central to the community forum model. Fostering freedom of expression occurs within community forums, given how African Americans/diverse groups gain access to a safe space where they can tell their own story, define their own issues, and create their own solutions. The attainment of unity, harmony and interdependence represent primary other goals of forums. These goals involve African Americans/diverse groups identifying and focusing upon sameness, or what is shared in common, thereby experiencing the empowerment that results from the community learning to speak with one voice, focus on one common goal, and achieve one common objective at a time. Unity results in feelings of empowerment that support taking action.

The Community Forum Goal of Healing

By virtue of the community forum model’s three prior guiding principles, the culmination of this healing wisdom is the ultimate goal of the forum as an intervention: to produce healing. The community forum is a place for African Americans/diverse groups to heal, as they attend to and care for their own wounds. Metaphorically speaking, the community forum is a safe space where bandages can be carefully removed, wounds rarely exposed gain access to air, the honest truth of how these wounds were sustained is spoken aloud as an absolutely rare communal experience, and collective wounds to identity can be addressed. This resultant healing is viewed as the ultimate solution for a community in crisis. This healing experience includes African Americans/diverse groups acknowledging how wounds to identity have been sustained as a result of an “agenda” that prescribed the role and function of African Americans through the enslavement experience, and subsequent experiences of racism, oppression, and discrimination; roles for those who were privileged or oppressed others were also prescribed. Healing within the community forum includes community members co-creating a new agenda, one allowing community members to determine their own role and function.

This healing also includes African Americans/diverse groups creating a new plan for the structure of their communities, as well as a plan for action in response to the crisis in their community. These plans for action should include models of sustainable development, starting, for example with neighbors or those sharing common environments learning to work together, helping and supporting each other. Action projects that are sustainable over time likely foster the community’s health, social, educational, or economic development.

Clinical Guidance in Processing Pain in Forums

Finally, it must be recognized that these principles serves as guideposts for what is admittedly a painful journey, as became clear in forums held with African Americans, in particular. This journey is painful because of the open admission of how community members have been acting based on what they were told to do—consistent with those subordinate roles and functions prescribed for them under the “agenda.” It is also painful to acknowledge destructive behaviors. Thus, the nature of this painful and difficult dialogue, once again, underscores the role of a clinician in serving as a facilitator of forums. StarSpirit International, Inc. provides personnel trained in the Community Forum Model and makes them available. Please contact us if you are interested in having a Community Forum conducted in your community, organization, or within your conference.

To Arrange A Community Forum

Also, for more information about the Community Forum Model, please see Wallace, B.C. (in press) Healing Collective Wounds from Racism: The Community Forum Model, In Constantine, M.G., & Sue, D.W. (Eds). Racism as a Barrier to Cultural Competence in Mental Health and Educational Settings, Wiley: NY