BridgeUSA Event Toolkit
Open Town Hall Discussion
Political Speed Dating
Small Group Discussion
Dinner & A Movie
- Description: The audience engages in open, moderated discussion over a selected topic. This is typically the most effective structure to practice listening and understanding various viewpoints.
- Recommended Number of Participants: Any. Should consider the fact that when the group becomes larger and larger that less and less people get to share their viewpoint. Discussions with groups larger than 30 tend to lose effectiveness; if possible either split the groups or use Small Group Discussions.
- Recommended Type of Topic: A topic that is both relevant and multi-faceted (meaning there isn’t just two main views representing each side, but many sub issues relating to the main one to avoid repetitive comments from many different people). This could be an issue like Gun Control, where there are many different things to discuss as potential causes or solutions to this issue such as gun shows, gun free zones, background checks, etc.
- Necessary Preparations: The moderator(s) of the discussion should be well-versed on each side of the topic, so they can both spark discussion and play devil’s advocate if there is an imbalance of voiced opinions. Ideally the discussion would go hand-in-hand with a PowerPoint or handout that had the sub-topics/questions on it, along with sources from both sides to inform the discussion.
- Description: “Inner” students who have researched a topic come ready to defend their position while “outer” audience interrogates positions and participates in debate.
- Recommended Number of Participants: Any. There should probably be 3-to-5 inner students and any number in the audience.
- Recommended Type of Topic: Any that the inner students are knowledgeable enough on to discuss in front of the audience.
- Necessary Preparation: The “inner” students should not just be informed, but have an ideological balance so as not to swing the debate entirely one way.
Political Speed Dating
- Description: Attendees engage in 1-on-1 or 2-on-2 discussions with many partners for short periods of time, answering a wide breadth of questions, political and apolitical. The larger group can reconvene at any time to talk about what they learned/heard in their conversations.
- Recommended Number of Participants: Any. Groups of 4 (8 people in total) recommended.
- Recommended Type of Topic: Any will work depending on preference or goal for the event. The chapter may decide to use a large variety of separate topics, or one central topic with multiple facets. For example, an issue like Gun Control has many potential sub-topics of discussion, including gun shows, gun free zones, background checks, mental health, etc.
- Necessary Preparation: A slideshow or handout with the questions on it is helpful so participants don’t forget, but this is not mandatory.
- Description: Moderated panel consisting of student and faculty leaders from a wide range of organizations across campus to discuss and debate a central question or topic. This is a good way to establish a connection with other organizations on campus and get their members to come.
- Recommended Number of Participants: Between 3-to-5 represented organizations or faculty members is recommended.
- Recommended Type of Topic: Any relevant topic will work. Recommended that it is chosen with the consideration of the backgrounds/viewpoints of each of the represented groups. The topic does not need to relate directly to each group, but you must confirm they are willing to talk about it (email or in-person meetings work)
- Necessary Preparation: Chapter leaders should be sure to email all participants ahead of the event to ensure participation. The panel moderator may consult with panel members to provide them with a general outline of the conversation so that they may prepare with research to enhance their contributions to the panel. On the part of the moderator, research into the topic of the panel is also necessary, so they can lead an active discussion.
- Discussion: A faculty expert leads a discussion on a topic about which the majority of individuals are typically under-informed. Should lead to a Q&A or small break-out discussion groups after the faculty member’s speech.
- Recommended Number of Participants: Any will work. Typically, one faculty member and any number of members in the audience. If they break into small groups after, with anywhere from 5 to 10 people per group.
- Recommended Type of Topic: A topic that the faculty member is an expert in and that is something the general public is not very knowledgeable about. The faculty member should be able to present the issues non-partisanly; it’s fine if they hold their own opinions on the topic but they must be able to present counterpoints respectfully.
- Necessary Preparation: Prepare some questions for after the speech, either for small group discussions or in case there are no Q&A questions. If absent from the speech, prepare a brief explanation of the opposing viewpoint for balance.
- Description: Create multiple threads of discussion-facilitating questions that represent a sub issue of the main issue (for example, the gun show loophole is a sub issue of gun control). Each thread of questions represents a sub-topic, and each sub-topic has a small designated space in the discussion room. Attendees can bounce around from group to group which should provide them with an informal, discussion-based structure that encourages having different conversations with different members. This promotes meeting new people and being exposed to new viewpoints.
- Recommended Number of Participants: We recommend having the groups being anywhere from 5 to 10. This means that there needs to be enough sets of questions to be able to have one for each group, or to have each set of questions repeated so that students have ample opportunity to move around to each group.
- Recommended Type of Topic: Any will work. Recommended one that has multiple facets to it as described above to provide enough questions about sub issues within the issue for members to have an in-depth discussion about the entire issue.
- Necessary Preparation: Gauge how many participants and thus small groups you will have. Prepare some threads of questions that can facilitate the conversation the whole time. Best to have at least one BridgeUSA officer in each group at all times, to stimulate and guide discussion if people run out of things to say/stray off topic.
Small Group Discussion
- Description: Instead of having a large group town hall style debate, this structure is set up to allow everyone’s voice to be heard within their group. Break members up into groups of 5 to 10 and have them discuss the issue. If there is time, it is also suggested to have some sort of entry questionnaire that reveals each member’s viewpoint, so you can split each group up in a way that it is well distributed across the political spectrum. It is good to return to the large group after everyone is done discussing to share what people have learned.
- Recommended Number of Participants: Any number of participants is fine as long as groups are split up into the optimal number of 5 to 10 members each.
- Recommended Type of Topic: An open-ended topic that enables participants to share experiences and personal opinions works best.
- Necessary Preparation: Print a list of the questions and topics for each small group to reference. Supply at least one BridgeUSA officer for each group to help guide discussion and stimulate conversations.
- Description: Break everyone up into teams of 5 to 10 members and play jeopardy where each category is a political issue. This event makes members of all differing views work together to determine the facts about current issues and then after a category is concluded, pause the game for a 5-minute discussion about the issue and how/if what they learned today has opened their eyes about more of the issue.
- Recommended Number of Participants: Any will work. Teams should be around 5 to 10.
- Recommended Type of Topic: Multiple (usually jeopardy does 5 per round).
Dinner & A Movie
- Description: In this structure, a video is played from a news source or group that represents one side of the issue. Then the small groups discuss what they saw, what they agreed with, and what they learned. Then, another video is shown on the same issue that represents/argues the other side of the argument. The groups again discuss what they saw, agreed with, and learned. Then the groups discuss how the videos differed from each other, and inherently how both viewpoints differ from each other. There is the option of bringing everyone back together to discuss in a large group format or in small groups. It is also worth noting that groups should discuss how this shows the importance of diversifying where you get your news from so that you are getting the full picture. Note: You must provide food if you advertise this event with the above title.
- Recommended Number of Participants: Any will work. Can do the second half in small groups or as a large town hall style group discussion.
- Recommended Type of Topic: Any that is widely discussed by both sides and in the news.
- Necessary Preparation: Find two ideologically opposed clips surrounding a certain issue. Make sure that the clips are relatively balanced in terms of beliefs, intensity, and credibility. It is beneficial to have the following discussion and questions outlined.