The mission of the Dialogue to Action Initiative is to promote the dialogue process by providing a central location on the web for information and resources of interest to the dialogue community as a whole.
The resources on our website will fulfill our mission by:
1. Providing people with tools - and information about additional tools - needed to organize an effective dialogue program.
2. Providing dialogue groups and organizations with a venue through which to share their strategies, publicize their events and resources and network with others in their field.
3. Giving people the opportunity to learn from the experience of other dialogue practitioners and organizations.
Sandy Heierbacher began the Dialogue to Action Initiative in 1998, when she was awarded a fellowship with the Corporation for National Service. For the fellowship, she provided leaders in the national service field (AmeriCorps, VISTA, etc.) with the information they need to involve their participants in intergroup dialogues on race and racism.
She developed a comprehensive website (now the Organize a Dialogue section and part of the Resources & Perspectives section) with the help of her wonderful artist husband, Andy Fluke, and dialogue guide for this purpose.
Before beginning the fellowship, Heierbacher worked as a Research Consultant for the Center for Living Democracy (with Jonathan Hutson and Frances Moore Lappe), developing and administering a national phone survey of 75 facilitators and organizers of intergroup dialogues on race.
While gathering information on the needs and strategies of U.S. dialogue groups, Heierbacher became concerned with a problem she heard described to her again and again. Although most dialogue groups seemed to naturally want to take action in their communities after engaging in dialogue, many groups failed to do so effectively. Dialogue organizers and facilitators explained that because of this failure to transition from dialogue to action, many people-especially People of Color-were leaving dialogue groups feeling dissatisfied despite the fact that the dialogue experience had been beneficial to them personally.
Heierbacher decided to research this problem for her Master's thesis for the School for International Training. To attempt to answer the question 'How can dialogue groups be more effective at taking action in their communities?' she interviewed leaders of dialogue programs, examined materials in the related fields of conflict resolution, community building, and social change, and conducted an in-depth study of existing dialogue materials and resources.
Working closely with her amazing advisor and mentor, Paula Green of the Karuna Center for Peacebuilding, Heierbacher found there to be nine broad strategies that are useful in organizing dialogues that have a greater capacity for inciting effective community action (now the Integrate Dialogue with Action section).
In three years of researching the dialogue process and movement - for the Center for Living Democracy, for her fellowship, for a consultancy with the Village Foundation (with Paul Martin DuBois) and for her thesis, as well as participating in dialogue facilitation training (with the Public Conversations Project) and mediation training (with the Mediation and Training Collaborative of Greenfield, MA) and running several local dialogues, Heierbacher had developed a good sense of the dialogue field as a whole.
She knew that there was no one-stop location on the internet for news and information about the dialogue field. Although there was lots of great information about dialogue available on the net, finding what you needed was far from easy or fast. Over the past several years, however, Heierbacher had developed many close contacts with individual and organizational 'movers and shakers' in the dialogue community, and had become somewhat 'in the loop' for new resources, upcoming events and other dialogue-related news. She was also aware of many different networks and websites online where one could find new information of interest to dialogue practitioners.
The Dialogue to Action Initiative's "Community page" (now the Dialogue Community section) was developed to provide a central location on the web for people to find out what was going on throughout the dialogue community - new dialogue guides that are published, conferences the major dialogue organizations are planning, new books prominent scholars are publishing, new research and events that are happening in closely-related fields.
And since the Dialogue to Action Initiative emphasizes the power that dialogue efforts have to effect change, the Community page included information about innovative action plans that dialogue efforts are implementing across the country; new tools, resources and events of interest to dialogue groups that were planning action on particular issues; and various ideas for community action. The Community section is updated every couple of weeks, and now keeps hundreds of dialogue leaders 'in the loop.'
At the same time the Community section was started (April 2001), Heierbacher also set up an email discussion list for dialogue organizers, facilitators and researchers. The DialogueLeaders list was to be used as a networking and information-sharing forum - not as an 'online dialogue' that would overload subscribers' email inboxes. The list is meant to be practical, informative and all-inclusive (not limited to any particular models, applications or philosophies of dialogue). In just a couple of months, over 100 dialogue organizers, facilitators and researchers had subscribed to the list.
Since that time, the Dialogue to Action Initiative site has averaged about 3,000 visitors per month and the Dialogue Leaders discussion list has grown into a useful, popular resource. Heierbacher has since served as a consultant with the Center for Disease Control's National Immunization Program and is very proud to be the Director of the first-ever National Conference on Dialogue & Deliberation!
The Initiative has grown so much in the past year, and has gotten so much positive attention. We seem to clearly be filling a need, and it is our hope to continue doing so. We were going to begin making Dialogue to Action a more sustainable project by obtaining official support from leaders in the dialogue field and obtaining funding for the project to continue to grow. We are putting this plan on hold until after the National Conference on Dialogue & Deliberation in October 2002. Depending on what the dialogue practitioners and theorists who are present at the conference decide, we may end up incorporating Dialogue to Action's resources and network within a new, larger initiative.
There is so much more that we want to do with the website. We will be adding a page which describes various dialogue models and threads of dialogic practice in the near future. We would like to add a bulletin board for dialogue-related employment and funding opportunities, and we plan to feature Master's and Doctoral students' theses and research results. We want to add more pratical tools on such things as recruiting key stakeholders, working with the media and organizing for change. The possibilities are endless....
Feel free to contact us if you'd like to get on our mailing list, suggest something we should add to the site, help us in any way, tell us how you've used the information we provide, or for any other reason! We'd love to hear from you.
Address: P.O. Box 402, Brattleboro, VT 05302
The Dialogue to Action Initiative and www.Thataway.org are ?2001 by Sandy Heierbacher and Andy Fluke.
Last updated Saturday, July 6, 2002 5:41 PM