Community Building

My passion is to expand the collective capacity of groups through developing skills and practices to open up communication, collaboration, and creativity. I design and facilitate experiences for communities to develop collaborative networks and to work through conflict, releasing that energy to serve what they are trying to create. I serve as a catalyst for positive change, social conscience and connection to our collaboration and. interdependence.

“Susan…has a clarity and steadiness that inspires confidence and trust… The warmth of her presence draws people in, taking them to places they probably didn’t know they could go.”
— Peggy Holman, Co-editor, The Change Handbook: Group Methods for Shaping the Future

My Approach to Community Building

Susan PartnowI help groups discern and move towards their higher purpose with powerful focus and integrity. I provide a range of practices and processes to consciously transform culture and to promote Co-Intelligence – the capacity for greater creativity and intelligence through collaboration that taps everyone’s uniqueness. Vitality emerges as people connect with each other and the mission of the organization through being what they are trying to do. back to top


Networking & Alliance Building

I bring large, diverse groups together to share resources, discover innovative ways to support each other, and –when appropriate– to create a collective sense of purpose. I help groups move beyond ego and turf issues to coalesce around shared higher purpose, which empowers and strengthens everyone.

Restorative Justice and Restorative Circles Restorative Justice brings a healing frame to managing conflict and differences. Groups, from communities, organizations, congregations to teams or families, are empowered to develop solutions by those most directly involved and impacted by conflict. Facilitated face-to-face dialogue practices ensure accountability and increase mutual understanding of the consequences of actions, address root causes and underlying needs while promoting self-responsibility to provide support, make amends, repair harm and restore relationships. (In contrast to traditional disciplinary or justice systems, which seek to judge, fix blame and assign punishment.) Restorative Circles support people to step into important and bold conversations with safety and accountability. I can help your community or organization develop a restorative system that reflects your culture and values, with a continuum of practices. And I can offer facilitation of a Circle to transform conflict with wise self-generated action plans, and mutual understanding. (For more general info visit Restorative Circles
or watch this 3-minute video from the University of Rochester)

Mediation & Conflict Transformation

By creating a safe space, a strong container and an effective process, I help groups discover how conflict brings an opportunity to locate and release the blocked energy for creative transformation. Learning to embrace and work through conflicts is essential to community building and organizational vitality so that creativity is nurtured, diversity is celebrated and collaboration is fostered.

Large Group Processes & Dialogue

I employ a range of highly participatory processes that invite ‘the whole system’ into the room whenever possible to maximize interaction, connection, and dialogue, which releases creativity and energy. This makes events come alive so that the process of the event itself is transformative. Participants actively engage in co-creating the event instead of having it delivered to them. Such processes are in themselves transformative. Through these experiences participants become more empowered, and have increased capacity as a result. I offer processes for the practice of dialogue that bring forth the unique talents and voices of everyone. Methods include Future Search, Open Space, World Café, Conversation Cafés, Appreciative Inquiry and Dynamic Facilitation to reach breakthrough thinking that goes beyond consensus.

Compassionate Listening

Compassionate Listening is a practice of deep, open-hearted, spiritual listening, from heart to heart, spirit to spirit, which transforms conflict, even in highly polarized situations. The practice of Compassionate Listening is transformative both to the listener and to the person being heard. I can help organize a delegation to bring this healing listening to your community and introduce the skills needed.

Conversation Cafés

This simple yet elegant process enhances connection and community, critical thinking, and social liveliness. I can bring it to your community or event. The Conversation Café process shifts the conversation from small to BIG talk and fosters a sense of community.

Sample Projects

Restorative Circle with Seattle Police: In the immediate aftermath of a Seattle police officer’s fatal shooting of John T. Williams, a First Nations wood carver, I co-facilitated a Restorative Circle between Police Chief John Diaz, top department officials, and the grieving family. Read more:

Connect the Dots: helped build a coalition of three major partners (Compassionate Seattle, 350 Seattle, Backbone Campaign) with dozens of community groups to move from compassion to action; designed and facilitated participatory dialogue processes for the 200 conference attendees which inspired new collaborations and partnerships.

“Holy Listening”: brought together diverse members of the Jewish community in a safe, sacred space where they engaged in a safe, heart centered dialogue around their relationship to Israel and the challenges of Israel/Palestine

Let’s Talk America: cofounded this national campaign with Utne Reader, World Café, Conversation Café and Democracy in America

Regional People’s Assembly: Designed and facilitated a regional conference for this non profit, attended by over 150, including international delegates, utilizing Open Space and Future Search.

SAVE (Students Against Violence Everywhere, part of MAVIA, Mothers Against Violence In America): Designed and facilitated a statewide Youth Summit to empower youth around issues of violence prevention utilizing Open Space.

People Web: Helped create a broad regional network of grassroots organizations. Designed and facilitated quarterly coalition meetings to generate dialogue, brainstorm innovative ways to collaborate and sustain each other. Processes included: World Café, Appreciative Inquiry, Dynamic Facilitation and theatre games.

Earth Charter Community Summit: Facilitated the Open Space portion of Seattle’s Community Summit in 2001 and 2002. These events were linked via satellite with summits in over 20 cities nationwide.

Structures for Change: Co-facilitated and designed a two day conference for grassroots activists from across the nation. Attended by over 100, the conference (workshops?) utilized Open Space, dialogue, and applied meditation.

African American Jewish Coalition for Justice: Designed and facilitated large group dialogue processes for the annual Martin Luther King Day breakfasts for several years, with over 100 in attendance each year. Sessions resulted in enhanced collective sense of purpose, networking, and action groups that took on projects lasting throughout the year.

Community Service

  • Co Founder, Seattle Restorative Justice, 2014
  • Founding Board Member, Compassionate Seattle, 2009
  • Founder, Global Citizen Journey, led delegations to Nigeria, Ghana, and Liberia; provided training and facilitation in India, Guatemala, Cuba and Mexico. 2005-present
  • Co Founder, The People Web, grassroots coalition of organizations and individuals in conjunction with Co Opportunities Northwest, Neighbor Nets and Cultural Creatives, 2000-2007.
  • Co Chair of Seattle Local Peoples Assembly of the Global Peoples Assembly, 2000-2004.
  • Co Creator of Conversation Cafes, a Seattle based initiative in conjunction with the New Road Map Foundation. Continue to serve as coach, mentor, steward and trainer in the process. 2001-present.
  • Participant in State of the Possible invitational retreats, sponsored by YES Magazine and The Positive Futures Network, 2003-2006.
  • Creator of a project to bring inner city children to the Seattle Children’s Theatre, 2002-3.
  • Founding member of the Center for Wise Democratic Processes to provide education and technical support for individuals and communities seeking real democracy using Dynamic Facilitation and the Wisdom Council.
  • Member of Spirited Work, a seasonal learning community, dedicated to the sustainable evolution of the earth, spirit, and human future based at the Whidbey Institute, 1999-2007.
  • Delegate and Speaker, CIVICUS World Citizen Summit, 2001, to enhance civil society.
  • Co Chair of Earth Charter Citizen Summit, 2001, 2002, Seattle.
  • Advisory Board, Middle East Citizen Diplomacy and Compassionate Listening Project, 2000 present; Delegate, Citizen Diplomat to the Middle East, 1992; Core Council, Compassionate Listening Training.
  • Education Committee Member, MAVIA (Mothers Against Violence In America), 1998-2003.
  • Trainer in Nonviolence in preparation for WTO Seattle and before Iraqi War, 1999-2004.
  • President and Board member of Earthstewards Network, 1997-9.
  • Founder & Chair, Coalition for Firearm Safety, and creator of Mother’s Day Rally for Safe Communities 1998-2001.
  • Board Member, African American Jewish Coalition for Justice, 1997-2000.
  • Advisory Committee, Peace Trees Vietnam, 1996-2000; Citizen Diplomat delegate, 1998
  • Co Facilitator, America Speaks (sponsored by Pell Foundation), 1999; Northwest Women’s International Conference, 1995
  • President of Kadima Community School, 1993 95, Board member 1992-96
  • Co founder and Director of Families for Peace, 1983-1990; Spokesperson. Frequently interviewed on radio and for newspapers.
  • Delegate and organizer on the Citizen’s Train, a grass roots lobby trip to Washington DC. Spokesperson and lobbyist. Chair of the women’s and children’s issues task force, 1988
  • Board member, Fellowship of Reconciliation, 1989-91
  • Co chair and founder of the Olympia Citizen’s Train, 1989. Focus on funding for health care, women’s and children’s issues.
  • Central American Committee, representative of University Friends Meeting to Church Council citywide committee on sanctuary, 1985-87


“Susan’s deep passion and commitment permeate her work. And as if that isn’t enough, her inquiring mind is always deepening the questions, bringing practices appropriate to the situation. I can picture her now, as she introduces Compassionate Listening to a group. She has a clarity and steadiness that inspires confidence and trust. I LOVE watching her work. The warmth of her presence draws people in, taking them to places they probably didn’t know they could go.”
— Peggy Holman, Co-editor of The Change Handbook: Group Methods for Shaping the Future

“Susan has such a warm and clear way of presenting that whatever she invites you to do, you want to do. She is also one of the world’s best listeners, really getting at the essence of what you are saying and feeding it back to you so it sounds more lucid than when it left your lips.”
— Vicki Robin, “Your Money or Your Life” author,

New Road Map Foundation/Simplicity Forum Founder
“I have seen Susan facilitate at many gatherings over the past years, including the national conference Co-Creating Structures for Change… She excels at getting people energized around building community. She was also the first host of a “conversation café” which has since become a national initiative.”
— Steve Habib Rose, Director, Neighbornets