Project Details

Dialogues for Change (D4C)

Short Description and Goal

D4C is specifically designed to engage U.S. and German local leaders in a discussion about how to strengthen their civic engagement approaches and test out new ideas on active planning processes in their communities. The outcomes have contributed positively to the evolution of how each of the participating cities approached civic engagement in their communities

Detailed Description

Dialogues for Change (D4C) is an initiative of The German Marshall Fund of the United States (GMF), supported the German Federal Ministry of the Interior (BMI) and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Office of International and Philanthropic Innovation.  D4C grew out of the 2012 joint declaration between the German Government and HUD to support transatlantic learning on a variety of urban planning and development topics in support of a shared agenda for sustainable and integrated urban development. The U.S.–German cooperation is an international initiative of the German National Urban Development Policy.

D4C was not a process of teaching participants about civic engagement; it was a process of discovery, sharing, learning, and practice as the representatives from participating cities developed their own unique approaches to engagement. During the workshops, participants were exposed to expert presentations on different aspects of civic engagement, followed by a series of exercises in city groups or mixed city groups to apply the learning, address challenges of applying the learning, and share related good practices. Groups and individuals reported back to the larger group on their findings and engaged in a dialogue with new insight and ideas.

Over the course of the D4C process, participants discovered for themselves the key factors that illustrate the fundamental principles of engagement. Through project-specific work, participants had the opportunity to test out ideas in real time and report their experiences to the network. They shared their successes with the group and worked through their challenges. Since these principles were derived in a transatlantic learning environment, their universality is further strengthened. They strongly correlate to the core principles of engagement espoused by several well-known and respected engagement and public participation organizations, and represent the necessary elements of a good, successful civic engagement program framework. The D4C universal principles are meant to provide guidance and structure to engagement processes, but they are also flexible and context-dependent.

The outcomes have contributed positively to the evolution of how each of the participating cities approached civic engagement in their communities. The initiative:

-Built a U.S./German learning network to explore opportunities and challenges around innovative approaches to civic engagement;
-Increased baseline knowledge and policy dimensions of city plans to create a more productive peer learning environment;
-Inspired participants with information, tools, and techniques to improve civic engagement processes and outcomes in their home communities by providing a forum to give and receive expert and peer advice;
-Inspired participants to envision themselves as leaders and start to establish a framework for lasting change by developing an action plan for city recommendations/projects; and
-Identified and widely disseminated program outcomes, as well as best/promising practices from participating cities.



D4C 2.0 (2013-2015): Download PDF

D4C 3.0 (2016-2018): Download the report (PDF) »


© 2018 The German Marshall Fund of the United States.

Resources This Project Needed


Memorandum of understanding from German and American government (HUD, German ministry in charge of foreign development) funded the project.

Travel and accommodation were covered.

3 Project staff worked the project for over 2 years in different amounts, including all logistical things like coordination of travel.



  1. Bringing cooperation to the concrete level – by introducing local projects and working on them within the program course
  2. Getting the right people. The main point of contact was always somebody from the city government, but below the political level, like a director in city administration. They were joined by participants essential for their project outside the city government. It helped to build a stronger relationship. Both representatives felt like a team. Each could help a partner. It strengthens cooperation between the local actors. Plus it gives a different perspective.
  3. As projects were all on different levels, it was difficult to find out where the learning could happen and which points of discussion would benefit everyone. In the end, participants talked a lot about similarities.


Participants set goals at different levels

  • As a group
  • As a participant

At the end of each workshop, they presented their action plans, supported by check-in calls.

To build a network it was crucial to leave some space and time for networking and sharing, instead of scheduling the whole day.

Workshop’s average duration: 2,5 days. Usually, Thursday, Friday and Saturday morning. Ground rules were to stay present, engaged and active. Participants could take a call or answer email but outside the session. They used the “Trello” task management tool. Its typical challenge: people won’t open it outside the workshop if they don’t use it for any other reason.

Evaluation session after each workshop asked:

  • What they learned as individuals, 
  • how that helped their professional skills and capacities. 
  • How that helped their project.

Each workshop was evaluated based on their feedback. 

Overall evaluation of the project was overwhelmingly positive, some collaborate even more 2 years ago.


Initiated by

  • The German Marshall Fund of the United States
  • German Ministry of Transport, Building, and Urban Development
  • U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development

Initiators are

• Public institution

Funded by

• Federal or State Funds

Project Website(s)

Contact Info

Project Topics

Business, Civil Society, Environment, Climate & Energy, Governance, Public Services & Administration, Sustainable development, Urban Development

Level / Project Complexity /


Participating Cities

  • Austin
  • Baltimore
  • Charlotte
  • Flint
  • Memphis
  • Pittsburgh
  • Bottrop
  • Leipzig
  • Ludwigsburg
  • Karlsruhe

Sizes of Participating Cities

• 20.000 - 100.000
• 100.000 - 500.000
• 500.000 - 1,5 Mio

Participating Countries

  • the United States of America
  • Germany

Project Region(s)

• Europe
• North America

Media Credits