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


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.

Instructors and Guest Experts

Course Instructors

  • Alison Milofsky, Director of Curriculum and Training Design, U.S. Institute of Peace
  • Ariana Barth, Associate Director, Arabella Advisors

Guest Experts

  • Sireen Abu Asbeh, Project Officer, Arab Renaissance for Democracy and Development 
  • Yebelta Assefa, Peace Project Officer, Peace and Development Center
  • Mark Brimhall-Vargas, Chief Diversity Office and Vice President for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, Brandeis University
  • Cate Broussard, Planning, Monitoring, Learning, and Evaluation Specialist, Life and Peace Institute
  • Daryn Cambridge, Professional Development Portfolio Manager (EPIC), Training Resources Group, Inc
  • Rhonda Fitzgerald, Managing Director, Sustained Dialogue Campus Network
  • Tricia Homer, Senior Program Officer, U.S. Institute of Peace
  • Tonis Montes, Program Officer, U.S. Institute of Peace
  • Beatriz Montoya, Founder & Director, Asociación de Mujeres del Oriente Antioqueño
  • Oussama Safa, Chief of Section, UN ESCWA
  • 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, former Program Officer, U.S. Institute of Peace

Related Publications

USIP Explains: Community Dialogue in Northern Sinjar

USIP Explains: Community Dialogue in Northern Sinjar

Thursday, April 11, 2024

By: Sarhang Hamasaeed

Ten years after ISIS’ genocide against them, the wounds of the Yazidi community in Iraq’s Sinjar district remain fresh as thousands remain displaced and even more await justice for the crimes perpetrated against them. Meanwhile, despite living in peaceful coexistence prior to ISIS’ campaign, the conflict planted seeds of division among Sinjar’s various tribes and communities — resulting in tensions that threatened to tear the district apart even after ISIS’ defeat.

Type: Blog

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Report of the Expert Study Group on NATO and Indo-Pacific Partners

Report of the Expert Study Group on NATO and Indo-Pacific Partners

Monday, February 19, 2024

By: USIP Expert Study Group on NATO and Indo-Pacific Partners

The North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) and its four partner countries in the Indo-Pacific—Australia, Japan, the Republic of Korea (ROK), and New Zealand—have entered a period of increased engagement. This engagement is taking shape in the context of the war waged by the Russian Federation (Russia) against Ukraine, NATO’s growing awareness of the security challenges posed by the People’s Republic of China (China), and important structural changes in the international system, including the return of strategic competition between the United States and China and Russia. It is occurring not only in bilateral NATO-partner relations but also between NATO and these Indo-Pacific countries as a group.

Type: Report

Conflict Analysis & PreventionCivilian-Military RelationsGlobal PolicyMediation, Negotiation & Dialogue

Why Now? The Tortured History of Iran’s Hostage Seizures

Why Now? The Tortured History of Iran’s Hostage Seizures

Wednesday, September 20, 2023

By: Robin Wright

In January 1981, I stood at the foot of the Air Algerie flight that flew 52 American diplomats to freedom after 444 days as hostages in Iran. Some of them were my friends. I still remember their gaunt appearances after being caged and cut off from the world for so long as they quietly disembarked. That original hostage crisis was a turning point in U.S. history in the 20th century — and has shaped angry American views of the Islamic republic ever since.

Type: Analysis

Mediation, Negotiation & Dialogue

70 Years After the Armistice, the Korean Peninsula Still Struggles for Peace

70 Years After the Armistice, the Korean Peninsula Still Struggles for Peace

Monday, September 11, 2023

By: Bong-geun Jun

On July 27, 1953, military commanders from the United States, North Korea and China signed an armistice agreement that ended the hostilities of the Korean War. The parties agreed to a “complete cessation of hostilities and of all acts of armed force until a final peaceful settlement is achieved.” They also recommended holding a “political conference” within three months for “the peaceful settlement of the Korean question.” After 70 years of truce, however, peace on the Korean Peninsula is still elusive.

Type: Analysis

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