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.

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

 Une ville du Sahel conçoit un moyen d'améliorer les réformes – et l'aide internationale

Une ville du Sahel conçoit un moyen d'améliorer les réformes – et l'aide internationale

Friday, October 15, 2021

By:Jasmine Dehghan ;Sandrine Nama

La recrudescence cette année des troubles violents dans le Sahel en Afrique – des attaques djihadistes élargies, des coups d'État ou des tentatives militaires dans quatre pays, ainsi que le nombre constamment élevé de victimes civiles – souligne que des années de travail pour renforcer les forces militaires et policières n'ont pas réussi à réduire l'instabilité. Pour réduire l'extrémisme et la violence, les pays doivent améliorer la gouvernance, et des analyses récentes soulignent le besoin particulier de renforcer le sentiment des gens que leurs gouvernements peuvent assurer la justice et trouver des résolutions équitables aux griefs populaires. Un tel changement est une tâche extrêmement complexe et une ville du Burkina Faso a élaboré un plan de réformes locales avec un processus pour gérer cette complexité.

Type: Analysis and Commentary

Mediation, Negotiation & Dialogue;Democracy & Governance

A Sahel Town Builds a Way to Improve Reforms—and Foreign Aid

A Sahel Town Builds a Way to Improve Reforms—and Foreign Aid

Thursday, October 14, 2021

By:Jasmine Dehghan;Sandrine Nama

This year’s escalation of violent turmoil in Africa’s Sahel—widened jihadist attacks, military coups or attempts in four nations, and continued high civilian casualties—underscores that years of work to reinforce military and police forces have failed to reduce instability. To undercut extremism and violence, countries must improve governance, and recent analyses underscore the particular need to build people’s confidence that their governments can provide justice and fair resolutions of popular grievances. Such change is an immensely complex task—and one town in Burkina Faso has shaped a plan for local reforms with a process to manage that complexity.

Type: Analysis and Commentary

Mediation, Negotiation & Dialogue;Democracy & Governance

Nurturing and Sustaining Facilitator Networks: Key Considerations for Support Organizations

Nurturing and Sustaining Facilitator Networks: Key Considerations for Support Organizations

Tuesday, September 21, 2021

By:Ruben Grangaard;Carlisle Levine

As more emphasis is placed on the role of national and local efforts in peacebuilding, support organizations may increasingly look for opportunities to bolster national and local facilitator networks. This report shares findings from a meta-review commissioned by the United States Institute of Peace that examined networks it supported in Afghanistan, Colombia, Iraq, Pakistan, and Tunisia. It provides recommendations for creating and sustaining networks that successfully operate with the resources and technical assistance available.

Type: Peaceworks

Mediation, Negotiation & Dialogue

Making Sense of North Korea’s Missile Test

Making Sense of North Korea’s Missile Test

Tuesday, September 14, 2021

By:Frank Aum

North Korea announced on September 13 that it had tested long-range cruise missiles over the weekend. It described the missiles as a “strategic weapon of great significance.” The test caused alarm in North Korea’s neighbors — South Korea and Japan, both U.S. allies — as the revelation now puts both countries within striking distance. But despite the test, a spokesperson for the Biden administration said the United States remains prepared to engage with North Korea. USIP’s Frank Aum discusses the significance of the tests, the arms race on the Korean Peninsula, and what signals North Korean leader Kim Jong Un may be sending to the United States with this latest test. 

Type: Analysis and Commentary

Conflict Analysis & Prevention;Mediation, Negotiation & Dialogue

View All Publications