This course introduces participants to dialogue as a practical and effective process for advancing conflict transformation and peacebuilding at the community level. The focus of the course is on designing and implementing a relevant, sustainable, and meaningful dialogue process.

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Course Overview

In communities that are adversely affected by social division or a history of violent conflict, strengthening relationships, improving understanding, and building interpersonal trust are key objectives toward restoring peace. Community members and leaders often know that to achieve these objectives, divided parties must engage with one another directly. But these direct engagements are frequently implemented as one-off, band-aid solutions, used as tools for one or more parties to pursue their own goals, or serve as a display of peace-making efforts without engaging stakeholders at all levels. Community-based dialogue can be a powerful mechanism for meaningful engagement, provided conveners, facilitators, participants, and other stakeholders have an informed understanding of what dialogue is and how to design and carry out a dialogue process. This course introduces participants to dialogue as a practical and effective process for advancing conflict transformation and peacebuilding at the community level. The focus of the course is on designing and implementing a relevant, sustainable, and meaningful dialogue process. Topics covered include:

  • Definitions of dialogue;
  • Principles that guide the community-based dialogue process;
  • Considerations for designing, monitoring, and evaluating a dialogue process; and
  • Stakeholders in a dialogue process – their roles and motivations.

Course Objectives

By the end of this course, participants will be able to:

  • Distinguish dialogue from other conflict resolution processes;
  • Determine when community-based dialogue is an appropriate process to manage a conflict; and
  • Design a community-based dialogue process in their own geographical and social context.

*This course focuses exclusively on how to design and implement a dialogue process with stakeholders in a particular conflict context. It is not a course on how to facilitate dialogue. We at USIP strongly believe that facilitation should be learned through in-person training, where skills can be learned, practiced, and applied under the mentorship of experienced practitioners.*

Introductory Video

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Agenda

Chapter 1: What is Dialogue?

This chapter introduces participants to the features of community-based dialogue that distinguish it from other types of group encounters. This chapter also explains how identity factors into a dialogue process, compares various dialogue models, and discusses which models might be appropriate for specific conflict situations.

Chapter 2: How do you Design a Dialogue Process?

This chapter identifies the key questions potential conveners want to ask in order to ensure that a community-based dialogue process is the right mechanism for addressing conflict, and that it is the right moment to hold one. It also guides participants through stages of designing a dialogue process, including analyzing the context and creating objectives.

Chapter 3: Who Are the Different Stakeholders in Dialogue?

This chapter outlines the three major roles individuals play in a dialogue process and explores how the guiding principle of inclusiveness relates to participant selection. In addition, this chapter explores the guiding principle of humanity as it relates to the contributions of the facilitator, and describes some characteristics of both facilitators and conveners in a dialogue process. Finally, this chapter evaluates the merits of self-selecting vs. nominated recruitment processes.

Chapter 4: How Does Learning Happen in Dialogue?

This chapter emphasizes the importance of learning in and from the community based dialogue processes. It introduces participants to considerations for monitoring and evaluation that are specific to community-based dialogue.

Course Instructors

Guest Experts

  • Mark Brimhall-Vargas, Chief Diversity Office and Vice President for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, Brandeis University
  • Rhonda Fitzgerald, Managing Director, Sustained Dialogue Campus Network
  • Cate Broussard, Planning, Monitoring, Learning, and Evaluation Specialist, Life and Peace Institute
  • Tonis Montes, Senior Program Assistant, United States Institute of Peace
  • Tricia Homer, Executive Communication Coach & Instructional Designer, University of Maryland
  • Beatriz Montoya, Founder & Director, Asociación de Mujeres del Oriente Antioqueño
  • Katherine Torres, National Coordinator, Puentes Para La Paz
  • Hannah Tsadik, Representative for the Horn of Africa, Life & Peace Institute
  • Timea Monique Webster, Facilitator, Words of Engagement Intergroup Dialogue Program
  • Michael Zanchelli | Program Officer, United States Institute of Peace
  • Oussama Safa | Chief of Section, UN ESCWA
  • Sireen Abu Asbeh | Project Officer, Arab Renaissance for Democracy and Development 
  • Daryn Cambridge | Professional Development Portfolio Manager (EPIC), Training Resources Group, Inc
  • Yebelta Assefa | Peace Project Officer, Peace and Development Center

Related Publications

Could a National Dialogue Solve Ethiopia’s Political Crisis?

Could a National Dialogue Solve Ethiopia’s Political Crisis?

Tuesday, January 19, 2021

By: Emebet Getachew; Mehari Taddele Maru; Yohannes Gedamu

While the recent conflict in Tigray renewed international focus on Ethiopia, more challenges lie ahead, including elections now scheduled for June 5. The state of Ethiopia’s political transition is contested, and the country remains polarized. However, as Ethiopian scholars Emebet Getachew, Mehari Taddele Maru, and Yohannes Gedamu discuss, a national dialogue process may have the potential to address the country’s dilemmas.

Type: Analysis and Commentary

Fragility & Resilience; Mediation, Negotiation & Dialogue

Nuclear Diplomacy with Russia: What’s Ahead for the Biden Administration?

Nuclear Diplomacy with Russia: What’s Ahead for the Biden Administration?

Tuesday, December 29, 2020

By: Dr. Donald N. Jensen

With relations between the United States and Russia at a low point, the incoming Biden Administration faces the challenge of finding the right balance between showing firmness toward the Kremlin and engaging on issues of mutual interest, above all arms control. President-elect Joe Biden has indicated he may agree to extend the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START) for five years, a decision that could clear the way for further negotiations. But while extension of New START could lead to discussions on other areas of arms control, the potential for breakthroughs in the U.S.-Russia relationship appears dim.

Type: Analysis and Commentary

Mediation, Negotiation & Dialogue

Central African Republic: A Role for Religious Leaders in Calming Conflict?

Central African Republic: A Role for Religious Leaders in Calming Conflict?

Tuesday, December 22, 2020

By: Laura Collins

Presidential and legislative elections loom large in the Central African Republic (CAR) amid high tension and spikes in violence. CAR’s religious leaders have been on the frontlines of efforts to calm tensions ahead of polls opening on December 27. From religious leaders in the capital to those at the grass roots, they have made their voices and positions clear. The question, therefore, is not if religious leaders are crucial actors in conflict stabilization and peace efforts in CAR: They already are. Rather, policymakers and practitioners should be unpacking these leaders’ experiences—past and present—and asking how to strengthen their role as peacebuilding partners in the immediate post-electoral context and longer-term.

Type: Analysis and Commentary

Mediation, Negotiation & Dialogue; Religion

Nuclear Diplomacy with North Korea: What’s Ahead for the Biden Administration?

Nuclear Diplomacy with North Korea: What’s Ahead for the Biden Administration?

Monday, December 21, 2020

By: Frank Aum; Ambassador Joseph Yun

The Biden administration faces a situation with North Korea similar to what President Obama faced in 2009, with U.S.-DPRK engagement on its last legs. Obama appeared interested in reviving the Six Party Talks, but slow outreach to North Korea allowed Pyongyang to seize the narrative by conducting a satellite launch in April and a nuclear test in May, which doomed engagement for an extended period. Biden will face a similar decision about how to engage North Korea, including whether to move forward with joint U.S.-South Korea military exercises in March, and whether to reaffirm the outcomes of the 2018 joint U.S.-DPRK Singapore Statement, which Pyongyang has yet to renounce but is on life support.

Type: Analysis and Commentary

Mediation, Negotiation & Dialogue

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