Essential Partners, Inc.

Bold explorations in community.

aka Public Conversations Project   |   Cambridge, MA   |  https://www.whatisessential.org

Mission

Essential Partners equips people to live and work better together in community by building trust, understanding, and connection across differences.

Ruling year info

1996

Co-Executive Director

Ms. Katie Hyten

Co-Executive Director

Mr. John Sarrouf

Main address

186 Alewife Brook Parkway, Suite 212

Cambridge, MA 02138 USA

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Formerly known as

Public Conversations Project

EIN

22-3432160

NTEE code info

Management & Technical Assistance (R02)

International Peace and Security (Q40)

Community Improvement, Capacity Building N.E.C. (S99)

IRS filing requirement

This organization is required to file an IRS Form 990 or 990-EZ.

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Communication

Blog

Programs and results

What we aim to solve

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

Essential Partners equips people to live and work better together in community by building trust, understanding, and connection across differences. Our mission work helps people address the following problems: * Intense polarization and the loss of trust across differences and in core democratic institutions * Racial, ethnic, and faith-based inequity, hate speech, and violence * The erosion of core democratic principles (e.g., free speech, religious tolerance, civil rights) * Inequality, injustice, and prejudices that threaten vibrant, pluralistic communities * Dysfunction and disengagement based on prejudice, "us vs. them" dynamics, fear of the other, and polarization * Lack of dedicated infrastructure and local, sustainable resources for dialogue and engagement across difference, bridge-building, and community resilience * Lack of understanding, trust, and connection across difference at the interpersonal, organizational, regional and national levels

Our programs

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

What are the organization's current programs, how do they measure success, and who do the programs serve?

Dialogue in Higher Education

Colleges and universities bring people with diverse backgrounds and intersecting identities together to build strong intellectual and social communities. It is an extraordinary feat. And to make it all work in a pressurized environment, administrators, faculty, and students routinely navigate sensitive, complex, and explosive issues, including:

Race and ethnicity
Gender and sexuality
Religious differences
Economic inequality
Middle East conflicts
Climate change
Intellectual diversity
Political partisanship (and more)

For thirty years, Essential Partners has worked with campuses large and small, with institutions public and private, and with stakeholders ranging from faculty and graduate students to undergraduates and staff. We have helped create more inclusive and resilient campuses that better prepare the next generation of leaders for a diverse, interconnected world.

To learn more about our network of higher education institutions and support organizations, or to learn about our Dialogic Classrooms model and the way EP can transform classrooms, campuses, and surrounding communities through our higher education partnerships, please visit: https://whatisessential.org/work-with/higher-education

Population(s) Served
Academics
Multiracial people
Adults
Adolescents

Imagine a school where conversations about tough topics are robust but respectful, where different views are not only accepted but invited, where strong cohesion bolsters resilience in the midst of conflict, and students excel academically while learning vital 21st Century leadership skills.

For 30 years, we have worked with communities around the globe to build trust, understanding, and relationships across differences. With public and private schools, districts, educators, students, administrators, and parents, we have helped to create more inclusive and resilient school cultures that prepare the next generation of leaders for a diverse, interconnected world.

We have collaborated with schools in Massachusetts, California, New York, Texas, North Carolina, and Wyoming, empowering students, teachers, and administrators with the skills to lead richer classroom discussions, create a more open, inclusive school environment, and transform their schools’ culture.

In the classroom and throughout the school, our approach also supports social-emotional learning targets. It aligns with trauma-informed classroom practices and it is shown to improve students’ engagement, learning outcomes, and sense of belonging.

EP is currently seeking to expand our work in secondary and middle schools, and welcomes new ideas for partnerships, connections to new funders who can support our work in schools, and new advocates to help spread the word.

To learn more about our secondary school and middle school partnerships, please visit: https://whatisessential.org/work-with/secondary-middle-schools

Population(s) Served
Students
Teachers
Parents
Families
Children and youth

Cities, towns, and neighborhoods face potentially explosive challenges year after year. These might be conflicts around major national topics like policing, complex local issues like housing development, or a small question about public parks that reveals underlying conflicts.

Essential Partners equips civic leaders, organizers, advocates, and community members with the tools to navigate polarizing differences. Our civic and community partnerships are designed to build capacity of civic organizations to talk about and engage across differences—whether by leading more inclusive public engagements, navigating a strategic planning process, convening diverse groups around divisive issues, or by proactively investing in more equitable, inclusive, pluralistic approaches to community-building.

EP equips civic institutions and local leaders to better serve their communities while advancing their vision. All collaborations are tailored to meet the needs of the local context. To learn more about our civic and community partnerships and capacity-building initiatives, please visit: https://whatisessential.org/civic-community

Population(s) Served

Workplaces assemble diverse groups of people in situations where consequential decision need to be made efficiently, leaders require trust to succeed, and teams have to work collaboratively to produce the best results. How we communicate often has as much impact as what we communicate. Processes matter, and so does institutional culture.

Essential Partners' approach helps foster a more inclusive environment where coworkers can engage differences without dysfunction. Our model generates more cohesive teams, helps employees navigate polarizing differences, improves communication, and makes decision-making processes more effective.

Refined over thirty years, EP's approach produces measurable outcomes, including:

Improved team cohesion
Greater trust across differences
Mutual understanding of opposing views
More effective, lasting collective actions

To learn more about our approach to dialogue and cultural transformations in organizational life and the workplace, please visit: https://whatisessential.org/workplace-organizations

Population(s) Served

Faith institutions play a leading role in public conversations across a wide range of social and political issues—such as abortion, immigration, the environment, and civil rights. They also serve members of the wider communities in which they're embedded, from feeding the hungry to sheltering those in need.

How can we bring faith values into public life? How can we engage diverse populations with openness, honesty, and dignity? How does a faith institution best realize its mission in the larger world? How can we cultivate robust, meaningful connections between diverse faith communities?

The answer is often found in community conversations. Essential Partners supports community engagements that create trust, understanding, and connection, even across deep divides. We can help design conversations foster depth and nuance, inclusion and conviction. For 30+ years we have partnered with a vast array of faith-based and interfaith groups to build lasting trust, understanding, and connection.

To learn more about our interfaith partnerships, and stories about the incredible impacts of this work, please visit: https://whatisessential.org/faith-religious

Population(s) Served
Interfaith groups
Christians
Jewish people
Muslims
Secular groups

From Indonesia to Spain, Northern Ireland to Burundi, Venezuela to Australia, Essential Partners has helped leaders, communities, and institutions across the globe foster trust, understanding, and connection across differences of values, views, and identities.

EP’s trademark approach has been refined over thirty years. Collaborations with EP produce measurable outcomes, including:

Improved social cohesion
Repaired trust across differences
Mutual understanding of opposing views
More effective, lasting collective actions

In some cases, one or more local leaders trained with Essential Partners in the United States and then brought their skills home. Our partner in Venezuela, for example, attended a training in the U.S. Upon his return, he has led dialogues on controversial social topics in the unstable nation with EP’s ongoing support.

In other cases, our partner downloaded EP’s essential guide to dialogue across divides and then reached out for design consultation and coaching. That happened in Northern Ireland, where EP provided design and coaching for a rural community engagement initiative focused on conflicts over renewable energy developments.

And in still other cases, an experienced EP practitioner travels to lead in-person trainings, help co-design processes, and provide coaching. Our practitioners have traveled to communities in places like Turkey, Jordan, the Philippines, Indonesia, Nigeria, Liberia, Finland, and Australia.

To learn more about our international programs and partnerships, please visit: https://whatisessential.org/international

Population(s) Served

Where we work

Affiliations & memberships

Massachusetts Nonprofit Network 2009

Our Sustainable Development Goals

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

Learn more about Sustainable Development Goals.

Goals & Strategy

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

Learn about the organization's key goals, strategies, capabilities, and progress.

Charting impact

Four powerful questions that require reflection about what really matters - results.

EP’s trademark methodology helps communities and institutions have healthier, more complex, more inclusive conversations about polarizing differences of values, beliefs, and identities—whether the issue is building a new public school in Ohio or addressing the global refugee crisis in Jordan.

We envision a world of thriving communities strengthened by difference, connected by trust.

Guided by this vision, our goals are to help civic groups, faith communities, colleges, and organizations build resilience, cohesion, and trust across deep divides of values, beliefs, and identities using our trademark approach to dialogue, civic engagement, and community-building. We are deeply focused on building the capacity for leaders, communities, and organizations to create and live into their own infrastructure for building bridges across difference. Our goal is to inspire communities and organizations to become more inclusive, dialogic, and pluralistic.

In 2020, Essential Partners also committed to a Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion framework for diversifying our organization and better representing the diverse communities we are proud to serve.

Essential Partners uses a powerful, innovative approach to dialogue across differences. We seek out partners in civic groups, faith communities, institutions of higher learning, secondary and middle schools, nonprofits, and many others to embed our practices for dialogue and community-building at the grassroots level and achieve scale by uniting EP-trainer leaders and advocates in a global community of practice.

Specifically, we help our partners by:

Training stakeholders in our trademark dialogue approach
Offering long-term collaborations to build local capacity and shift community or institutional cultures
Co-creating new proprietary programs and materials
Providing remote program design consultation and coaching
Facilitating dialogue around particularly tough topics

EP has more than three decades of experience, serving as core partners to civic leaders, community stakeholders, and organizations across the globe, and equipping them to hold constructive conversations about the values, views, and identities that are most essential to them.

Our proven methodology, Reflective Structured Dialogue, is well-studied and renowned for its transformative impacts. Our approach combines elements of family therapy, neuroscience, and mediation. This approach was originally designed and tested in the 1990s, and has been continually refined, adapted, and modified to suit emerging demands. As a result, our core social technology is highly adaptable, impactful, and responsive to a growing range of contemporary needs, challenges, and applications.

In addition to our proven methods, EP boasts the most advanced impact evaluation in the field of dialogue and deliberation. We use the data generated through our Monitoring, Evaluation, and Learning system to learn as an organization, respond to growing calls for robust evaluation in the field, and tell powerful stories about dialogue.

EP's capabilities are further enhanced by a vast network of partners, ranging from grassroots community partners to national and international organizations, many of whom serve as high-level leaders in their respective fields. To learn more about the people we work with, please visit: https://whatisessential.org/who-we-work.

EP is also committed to building a global community of practice, uniting program alumni and EP-trained leaders into a network of champions, advocates, and partners. This community of practice is a key element of our capacity to drive and inform transformational impacts around the country and the world.

Over our 30-year history, we have worked in more than 40 U.S. states and in dozens of countries abroad. Each year we typically offer direct training, coaching, and capacity-building partnerships to more than 3,000 people—most of whom use the skills we impart to impact many others in their communities and organizations.

As EP trainees join our global community of practice, they become part of a movement to embed EP practices for dialogue and engagement across difference in their local contexts. This community of practice, representing thousands of program alumni/ae, leaders, and volunteers around the world collectively impacts more than 100,000 people each year.

In our 2019-20 Annual Report, we were proud to relate that, despite the COVID-19 pandemic, we remained focus on supporting our civic, faith, organizational and community partners around the world as they faced the challenge of staying connected and engaged, not just across differences, but across unprecedented distances as well.

Last year we supported schools, colleges, nonprofits, foundations, and frontline medical workers as they held life-and-death conversations about how t o live and work together, safely. After the death of George Floyd, we fostered dialogues about race and equity in schools and communities. And in preparation for the 2020 Presidential Election, we taught the next generation of young leaders in secondary schools to explore and discuss political differences in new, healthier ways. In all, our work in 2019-20 involved partnerships with 67 communities and institutions, training more than 2,300 leaders in our methods. Our community of practice, in the meantime, reached untold thousands all around the U.S. and the world through self-led initiatives with support from our passionate staff and 19 Associate experts.

Financials

Essential Partners, Inc.
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Operations

The people, governance practices, and partners that make the organization tick.

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Connect with nonprofit leaders

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  • Analyze a variety of pre-calculated financial metrics
  • Access beautifully interactive analysis and comparison tools
  • Compare nonprofit financials to similar organizations

Want to see how you can enhance your nonprofit research and unlock more insights? Learn More about GuideStar Pro.

Essential Partners, Inc.

Board of directors
as of 5/14/2021
SOURCE: Self-reported by organization
Board chair

Ms. Christine Spadafor

SpadaforClay Group

Term: 2020 - 2023

Robert O'Hara

O'Hara & Co.

Julien Pham

GenPrex

Gary Sandhu

Noblestone Capital

David March

Exergy Energy, Inc.

Jeanne Emanuel

WBUR

Nicole Morris

Brendan Abel

Massachusetts Medical Society

John Lloyd

Magnet, Inc.

Board leadership practices

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

GuideStar worked with BoardSource, the national leader in nonprofit board leadership and governance, to create this section.

  • Board orientation and education
    Does the board conduct a formal orientation for new board members and require all board members to sign a written agreement regarding their roles, responsibilities, and expectations? No
  • CEO oversight
    Has the board conducted a formal, written assessment of the chief executive within the past year ? No
  • Ethics and transparency
    Have the board and senior staff reviewed the conflict-of-interest policy and completed and signed disclosure statements in the past year? No
  • Board composition
    Does the board ensure an inclusive board member recruitment process that results in diversity of thought and leadership? No
  • Board performance
    Has the board conducted a formal, written self-assessment of its performance within the past three years? No

Organizational demographics

SOURCE: Self-reported; last updated 05/14/2021

Who works and leads organizations that serve our diverse communities? GuideStar partnered on this section with CHANGE Philanthropy and Equity in the Center.

Leadership

The organization's leader identifies as:

Race & ethnicity
White/Caucasian/European
Gender identity
Female, Not transgender (cisgender)
Sexual orientation
Decline to state
Disability status
Decline to state

The organization's co-leader identifies as:

Race & ethnicity
Middle Eastern
Gender identity
Male, Not transgender (cisgender)
Sexual orientation
Decline to state
Disability status
Decline to state

Race & ethnicity

Gender identity

 

Sexual orientation

No data

Disability

No data