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Our Purpose

The Conversation Project is dedicated to helping people talk about their wishes for end-of-life care.

Too many people are dying in a way they wouldn’t choose, and too many of their loved ones are left feeling bereaved, guilty, and uncertain.

It’s time to transform our culture so we shift from not talking about dying to talking about it. It’s time to share the way we want to live at 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 we love, before it’s too late.

Together we can make these difficult conversations easier. We can make sure that our own wishes and those of our loved ones are expressed and respected.

If you’re ready to join us, we ask you: Have you had the conversation?

Our History

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

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 dying, and to encourage people to talk now and as often as necessary so that their wishes are known when the time comes.

In order 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 team includes five seasoned law, journalism, and media professionals who are working pro bono alongside professional staff from IHI who bring a wealth of expertise to the project.

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.

Frequently Asked Questions

How can I get involved?

Start by having conversations with your loved ones about your and their end-of-life care wishes; The Conversation Starter Kit 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 end-of-life care conversations and how to partner with other organizations in your region to promote this work.

You can also join our monthly webinars for community leaders. Sign up for our Community Engagement Newsletter for more information. Additional resources are available on our Community Resource Center.

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

We offer quarterly, virtual speaker trainings that will prepare you to present on The Conversation Project and lead a Starter Kit workshop. Sign up for our Community Engagement Newsletter to receive 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 how to join the trainings; no further registration is required.

How do I get copies of your materials?

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

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 can be made online.

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

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 Starter Kits page (http://theconversationproject.org/starter-kits/). We do not, however, allow PDFs of our Starter Kits 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 and send it to conversationproject@ihi.org 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 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

If your inquiry isn’t answered by the FAQs above, please e-mail, call, or send us snail mail using the information below.

By Mail or Phone:

The Conversation Project
20 University Road, 7th Floor
Cambridge, MA 02138 USA
Phone: (617)­ ­301-4868


By Email: conversationproject@IHI.org

Our Stories

Ellen Goodman
Co-Founder and Director

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

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Zack Rubin
Project Coordinator, IHI

Zack Rubin recently joined The Conversation Project as a Project Coordinator.  He graduated from Brown University in May 2015 with a degree in public policy. 

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Harriet Warshaw
Executive Director, The Conversation Project

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

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Len Fishman
Co-Founder and Director

“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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Maureen Bisognano
President Emerita and Senior Fellow, IHI

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

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Kate DeBartolo
National Field Manager, IHI

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

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Christopher Joshi
Project Assistant

Test addition

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Jane Roessner, PhD
Director; Publications, IHI

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

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Mandy Ferguson
Advisor to The Conversation Project

She started telling the story of this poor old man who had suffered from a seriously painful decline and, ultimately, death.

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Patty Webster, MPH
Improvement Advisor

Patty has served as Improvement Advisor for IHI since 2007. She supports TCP with knowledge management and facilitates a quality improvement community of practice within IHI’s maternal, newborn and child health portfolio in Africa.

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Harvey Freishtat, Esq.

“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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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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Martha Hayward
Lead for Public and Patient Engagement, IHI

“I wish we had had the conversation as a family, together, understanding that her wishes should prevail.”

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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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Sarah Putnam
Advisor to The Conversation Project

“I was lucky to have had the most pragmatic of fathers, who would plan for any potential problem before it had a chance to become a problem.”

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Otile McManus

“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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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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Donald M. Berwick, MD, MPP, President Emeritus and Senior Fellow, Institute for Healthcare Improvement
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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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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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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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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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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Phyllis Segal

“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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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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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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Conversation Ready Pioneers

The Conversation Project is proud to recognize a group of pioneer health care organizations who, along with the Institute for Healthcare Improvement, are committed to ensuring that their organizations are "Conversation Ready." Learn about how they're readying themselves to receive and respect people's wishes for end-of-life care here.


The Schwartz Center Cummings Foundation

Founding funder

Cambia Health Foundation