Enhancing Creativity in Adult and Continuing Education: Innovative Approaches, Methods, and Ideas

By Paul Jay Edelson; Patricia L. Malone | Go to book overview

The authors interview Paul Aicher, founder of the Topsfield
Foundation, Inc., and Martha McCoy, executive director of the Study
Circles Resource Center, about the challenges of creating an effective,
replicable model for citizen engagement through communitywide study
circle programs
.


The Topsfield Foundation: Fostering
Democratic Community Building
Through Face-to-Face Dialogue

Catherine Flavin-McDonald, Molly Holme Barrett

Many foundations are looking for ways to contribute effectively to communitybuilding efforts. One of the biggest challenges for national foundations, as outsiders, is to find a balance between assisting a community and nurturing long-term change that is truly owned and driven by that community. A related challenge is to extract the lessons of successful community building so that effective programs can be replicated throughout the country.

The Topsfield Foundation, Inc. (TFI), an operating foundation based in Pomfret, Connecticut, has been unusually successful in meeting these challenges. In its short life, it has made great strides in reaching the grass roots and making a contribution to the field of democratic community building.

Paul Aicher, Topsfield founder and president, knew he wanted to use the foundation's resources to support grassroots citizen efforts. Through the Study Circles Resource Center (SCRC), TFI has had a real and sustained impact on hundreds of communities, large and small, across the country. Topsfield and SCRC assist cities and towns as they build communitywide study circle programs. In these programs, large numbers of ordinary citizens meet in small, participatory groups to address critical public issues, learn from one another, and find ways to work together.

Paul Aicher's partnership with the Topsfield board and staff is a story of innovation, collaboration, and commitment. Together, they work to support, guide, and learn with a growing network of civic entrepreneurs. In the following interview, Aicher and SCRC Executive Director Martha McCoy reflect

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