Dialogue is a process which enables people from all walks of life to talk deeply and personally about some of the major issues and realities that divide them. Dialogues are powerful, transformational experiences that often lead to both personal and collaborative action. Dialogue is often deliberative, involving the weighing of various options and the consideration of different viewpoints for the purpose of reaching agreement on action steps or policy decisions.
People are leading dialogues across the country in schools, in churches, in workplaces, and in virtually every other venue imaginable. They are encouraging people to engage in dialogue about issues ranging from race relations in their communities and violence in their schools to how to handle the buildup of nuclear waste or the rapid rate of development in their region. People are organizing dialogues in order to resolve conflicts, to increase citizen participation in governmental decisions, to educate, to help people build self-awareness, to improve communication skills, to strengthen teams or build coalitions, to stimulate innovation and to foster effective community change.
Different organizations and different sectors of dialogic practice define dialogue in variety of different ways. Click on some of the links below to see examine this diversity of viewpoints and practices, or examine the sites of the members of our Coalition.
There are many excellent reasons to foster dialogue and deliberation- many more than are listed here. Since there are a number of great organizations promoting and organizing dialogues, we decided to highlight some of their perspectives. If you would like to add an entry to the list below, please email it to us at .
To Strengthen Democracy...
"Dialogues help citizens take an active role in policy decision making, and the health and strength of democracy depends on the active participation of responsible citizens who take the initiative to engage in dialogue and deliberate about the public policy choices and to work towards setting the public agenda."
National Issues Forum
To Foster Collaboration...
"The act of collaboration must start with dialogue. You cannot build relationships without having an understanding of your potential partners, and you cannot achieve that understanding without a special form of communication that goes beyond ordinary conversation."
from The Magic of Dialogue
by Daniel Yankelovich
To Improve Intergroup Understanding...
"Facilitated dialogues foster new, respectful relationships, informed by a deepened understanding of the role of prejudice and stereotyping in discriminatory behavior and characterized by individual commitments to fight against personal, cultural and institutional racism."
National Conference for Community and Justice
To Transform Conflicts...
Dialogue is being increasingly used "to transform deep-rooted, value-based conflicts. With dialogue, small groups of people who hold opposing views on highly divisive and emotional public policy issues (such as abortion or gay rights) are brought together to have a 'new kind of conversation.' Unlike debate, which seeks to score points and to persuade, the goal of dialogue is mutual understanding and respect?
. This does not lead to a resolution of the conflict, but it can lead to a transformation in the way the conflict is pursued from one which is highly destructive and divisive to one which is constructive and leads to personal growth. Dialogue has also been used effectively to alter relationships in deep-rooted ethnic conflicts, such as that between the Palestinians and the Israelis."
Transformative Approaches to Conflict
by Heidi Burgess and Guy Burgess
To Foster Community Change...
"Dialogue participants' increased sense of power and determination to initiate change, combined with the knowledge they gain from the vastly different experiences and perspectives of their fellow members, puts dialogue groups in a unique, powerful place to solve community problems."
Dialogue to Action Initiative
To Build Peace...
"Dialogue is a fundamental component in the process of peacebuilding. Peacebuilding means creating a human infrastructure for relationships that are harmonious, synergistic, cooperative, respectful and mutually beneficial. When people are divided by their differences, the patterns of relating tend to reinforce separation, fragmentation and divisiveness. In situations of severe conflict, the lack of communication breeds mistrust, distorted views, cycles of hurt and revenge, blame and anger. Dialogue is a way of creating bridges across the chasms of our differences. It generates pathways for developing trust, changing old habits of thought and action and trying new behaviors."
Institute for Multi-Track Diplomacy
To Promote Active Citizenship...
By participating in dialogues, "citizens gain 'ownership' of the issues, discover a connection between personal experiences and public policies, and gain a deeper understanding of their own and others' perspectives and concerns. They discover common ground and a greater desire and ability to work collaboratively to solve local problems - as individuals, as members of small groups, and as members of large organizations in the community. Community-wide study circle programs foster new connections among community members that lead to new levels of community action."
Study Circles Resource Center
To Encourage Innovation...
"We create our world and its future through a process of connecting with each other, sharing knowledge and know-how, and building relationships--all through the process of collaborative conversation. When we consciously focus attention on 'questions that matter'--for our families, organizations, and communities--we are contributing to the evolution of the knowledge and wisdom that we need co-create the future. We 'grow what we know' individually and collectively. We notice the possibilities for mutual insight, innovation, and action that are already present, if only we know where to look."
The World Café
To Influence Decision Makers...
The impact of facilitated dialogues "is great on all participants, but when community, civic and business leaders participate, the impact is even greater. Empowered with new understanding, leaders become advocates who create the changes that transform communities and institutions."
National Conference for Community and Justice