About Us

Our Purpose

The Conversation Project® is a public engagement initiative of the Institute for Healthcare Improvement (IHI). Our goal is both simple and transformative: to help everyone talk about their wishes for care through the end of life, so those wishes can be understood and respected.

It’s time to share the way we want to live through the end of our lives. And it’s time to communicate about the kind of care we want and don’t want for ourselves.

We believe that the place for this to begin is at the kitchen table—not in the intensive care unit—with the people who matter most to us, before it’s too late.

Together we can make these difficult conversations easier. We can make sure that our own wishes, and those of the people who matter most to us (our loved ones, friends, chosen family), are both understood and respected. The Conversation Project offers free tools, guidance, and resources to begin talking with those who matter most about your and their wishes.

Our History

The Conversation Project began 2010, when Pulitzer Prize-winning writer Ellen Goodman and a group of colleagues and concerned media, clergy, and medical professionals gathered to share stories of “good deaths” and “hard deaths” within their own circle of loved ones.

Goodman founded the nonprofit after serving as caregiver to her mother with Alzheimer’s disease for many years. She and her mother had never discussed end-of-life care, but in the end the care decisions fell to Ellen. “I realized only after her death how much easier it would have all been if I heard her voice in my ear as these decisions had to be made,” she recalls.

Over several months, a vision emerged for a grassroots public campaign spanning both traditional and new media that would change our culture. The goal: to make it easier to initiate conversations about living and dying and to encourage people to talk now, and as often as necessary, so that their wishes are known when the time comes.

To make this vision a reality, The Conversation Project began its collaboration with the Institute for Healthcare Improvement (IHI) in September of 2011. IHI is a not-for-profit organization that helps lead improvement of health and health care throughout the world. Today, The Conversation Project is run by Ellen Goodman and IHI staff with support from many expert advisors.

The Conversation Project team wishes to acknowledge the generous assistance of the countless individuals who provided insight, advice, and encouragement as we prepared to launch our national campaign. Along the way, they shared resources, knowledge, and experience giving us leads, making connections, and focusing our work. Not surprisingly, they almost always shared their own personal stories, stories that underscore the importance of answering the question: “Have you had the conversation?” To each of you, our thanks.

By the Numbers

While 92% of Americans say it’s important to discuss their wishes for end-of-life care, only 32% have had such a conversation. 95% of Americans say they would be willing to talk about their wishes, and 53% even say they’d be relieved to discuss it (The Conversation Project National Survey, 2018).

More than 700,000 people, from all 50 states and 160+ countries, have downloaded our Conversation Starter Guide, which is available in English, Spanish, and Chinese.

More than 2,100,000 people have visited The Conversation Project website since its 2012 launch.

For research related to TCP and end-of-life care conversations, please visit our health care resources page.

Frequently Asked Questions

How can I get involved?

Start by having conversations with those who matter most to you about your and their wishes for health care through the end of life; The Conversation Starter Guide is a free resource to help guide you through the process.

If you’d like to get more involved, we encourage you to first check out our Community Getting Started Guide. This is a great way to begin planning for how you can engage community residents in health care conversations through the end of life and how to partner with other organizations in your region to promote this work.

You can also join our webinars for community leaders, join our Conversation Champions Discussion Group, and connect with others doing similar work by checking out our Conversation Champions mapSign up for our Community Engagement Newsletter and check out our Get Involved Page for more information. Additional resources are available on our Community Resources Page.

How do I get copies of your materials?

All of our materials, including the Conversation Starter Guide, are available to download and print for free. Professionally printed copies are also available for purchase through our online, Mimeo Marketplace.

My organization (or I as an individual) would like to get involved with The Conversation Project. How can I get started?

First, please review TCP’s Principles for how we work with community partners.
Then, visit our Get Involved page, where you can sign-up for newsletters, get support from others, and download resources.

I’m interested in presenting about The Conversation Project. How do I get started?

We have a recorded, virtual speaker training that will prepare you to present on The Conversation Project and lead a Conversation Starter Guide workshop. Look under “Training” on our community calls/connections page for more information. Additionally, our Community Resource Center has a standard slide deck and suggested activities you can use for your presentation.

How do I sign up for the monthly Conversation Project community webinar?

Sign up for our Community Engagement Newsletter to receive information on our webinars and check our community calls/connections page for how to register for calls.

How can I support The Conversation Project?

The Conversation Project depends on foundation grants, corporate sponsorships, and individual contributions to fund its work. If you would like to support our campaign, please consider a tax-deductible gift to honor a loved one’s memory. Donations to TCP can be made by check or credit card donation.

Please make checks payable to “Institute for Healthcare Improvement”. Mail checks to 53 State St, 18th Floor, Boston, MA 02109. Please indicate the Conversation Project on the memo line.

Online donations can be made through our donate button at the top of the page or through the secure online form.

You can also help us promote our work and the vital importance of care conversations through the end of life by posting on The Conversation Project Facebook page, tweeting @convoproject or sharing on Instagram.

May our organization post a link to your website?

Absolutely. Feel free to provide a link to our homepage (http://theconversationproject.org/) or directly to our Get Started page (https://theconversationproject.org/get-started). We do not, however, allow PDFs of our Conversation Starter Guides to be posted on external websites.

If you would like to receive a custom URL, so that we can track the number of people clicking on the link and provide this information to you, please email conversationproject@ihi.org.

Please refer to our branding guidelines for more information.

How can I request to have someone from The Conversation Project speak at my event?

Please complete the Speaker Request form to tell us more about the event you are planning. If possible, we’ll then make a recommendation on the best speaker for your event. Please note that because we are a small team, we can only accommodate a limited number of speaking engagements.

How can I request an interview for my podcast, article, radio program, etc.?

Please send all media inquiries to conversationproject@ihi.org.

What is the relationship between The Conversation Project and National Healthcare Decisions Day?

NHDD is an initiative of The Conversation Project. NHDD’s founder, Nathan Kottkamp, continues to be involved, while we are responsible for the management, finances, and structure of NHDD.

What if I have additional questions?

Please email us at conversationproject@IHI.org.


Contact Us

We want to hear from you! E-mail or send us snail mail using the information below.

By Mail:

The Conversation Project
53 State St, 18th Floor
Boston, MA 02109
By Email: conversationproject@IHI.org

Press inquiries: Please email us, and we will return your message within one business day. If you need a quicker response, please call Shubhi at 617-391-9939.

Our Stories

Ellen Goodman

“We talked about everything except one thing: how she wanted to live at the end of her life.”

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Kate DeBartolo
Senior Director

“This topic has taken over my work and personal life in the best way possible”

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Rev. Rosemary Lloyd
Advisor to Faith Communities

“Dad, Grandpa is 94. He has had a good, long life. He told me he is not afraid to die.”

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Jane Roessner, PhD

“My parents died four years ago, at ages 86 and 88 — within a week of one another.”

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Patty Webster, MPH
Improvement Advisor

“Life is about living and dying well. I thank my mom for not waiting until it was too late to give us the gift of telling us how she wanted to live until the very end.”

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Kristin Cronin
Project Manager

As Project Manager, Kristin responsible for managing budgets and using analytics to evaluate TCP’s public engagement work, community partnerships, and digital resources.

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Laura Rodríguez
Associate Project Manager

Conversations surrounding end-of-life care and wishes become relevant at some point in every person’s life. They became prevalent in my own life as my family and I began to navigate my grandmother’s pancreatic cancer diagnosis. Being part of an initiative that strives to provide free resources for people of any faith, culture, and background has been a great source of hope and ease through the conversations with my own family.

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Maureen Bisognano
Advisor to The Conversation Project

“Looking back, I wonder what might have come from asking that question.”

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Donald M. Berwick, MD, MPP
Advisor to The Conversation Project

“I ended my speech by asking the audience to join me in a pledge, on behalf of my father, to do everything we could to make sure that others would not suffer as he had”

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Susan Block, MD
Advisor to The Conversation Project

“As a doctor-daughter, I wanted to make sure that he wasn’t depressed, to understand his reasons for this change in his goals, and to make sure that he did not suffer.”

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Ira Byock, MD
Advisor to The Conversation Project

“I want to be of some value if and to the extent I can.”

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Len Fishman
Co-Founder and Advisor

“At that point I decided not only to honor my mother’s wishes, but also to give her the best possible death.”

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Lachlan Forrow, MD
Advisor to The Conversation Project

“What if something serious happened, and we didn’t know what you would want the doctors to do?”

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Gail Freeman
Advisor to The Conversation Project

“When my brother was diagnosed with colon cancer at 39 years old, I never thought he would die from the disease.”

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Harvey Freishtat, Esq.
Advisor to The Conversation Project

“I will never want to leave my wife, children or other loved ones in a similar position of uncertainty and guilt.”

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Atul Gawande, MD
Advisor to The Conversation Project

“The end comes with no chance for you to have said goodbye or “It’s O.K.” or “I’m sorry” or “I love you.””

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Mark B. Ganz
Advisor to The Conversation Project

“She needed her doctors to listen to her, to understand her personal definition of quality and to respect her end-of-life wishes…”

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Paula Johnson, MD
Advisor to The Conversation Project

“I view “the conversation” as conversations about how we wish to lead our lives, both in health and when faced with illness.”

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Jessica McCannon, MD
Advisor to The Conversation Project

“If I had to make decisions for any of them I feel like I would have a solid starting point, and all it took was that one conversation.”

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Otile McManus
Advisor to The Conversation Project

“I was 21 when my 19-year-old sister was struck and killed by a drunk driver. That was more than 40 years ago.”

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Phyllis Segal
Advisor to The Conversation Project

“Each experience was horrific in its own unique way, but despite the differences each left me better prepared for the next.”

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Liz Walker
Advisor to The Conversation Project

“She looked me straight in the eye and said, ‘All I want is to stay in my house.’ I knew then I would do everything I could to honor her request.”

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Harriet Warshaw

“It was a time of serenity and pure joy sharing such private and intimate moments.”

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Ruth Wooden
Advisor to The Conversation Project

“My siblings and I shared the time together with her and each other — it was her last gift to us.”

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Charlotte S. Yeh, MD
Advisor to The Conversation Project

“So, I did the unthinkable….I let the husband and father go on his own, and not get in his way.”

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