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

Nonviolent Action and Transitions to Democracy: The Impact of Inclusive Dialogue and Negotiation

Nonviolent Action and Transitions to Democracy: The Impact of Inclusive Dialogue and Negotiation

Tuesday, July 6, 2021

By: Véronique Dudouet; Jonathan Pinckney

Significant dialogue and negotiation processes have taken place in almost all democratic transitions, but these processes alone do not have a significant impact on future democracy. This report presents statistical analysis of all political transitions after nonviolent action campaigns and case studies of transitions in Egypt, Tunisia, and Ukraine to show the importance of inclusion—and in particular the participation of women—to ensure both successful dialogue and that the outcome of that dialogue is a stable democracy.

Type: Peaceworks

Mediation, Negotiation & Dialogue

National Dialogues in Peacebuilding and Transitions: Creativity and Adaptive Thinking

National Dialogues in Peacebuilding and Transitions: Creativity and Adaptive Thinking

Tuesday, June 8, 2021

By: Elizabeth Murray; Susan Stigant; (editors)

At their best, national dialogues hold the promise of adding critical momentum in the drive to transform conflict inclusively. This report examines dialogues in six countries—the Central African Republic, Kenya, Lebanon, Senegal, Tunisia, and Yemen. These diverse processes show the possibilities for fostering dialogue, forging agreements, and driving toward peace; and the report offers extensive guidance on the possibilities and practicalities for those considering convening a national dialogue.

Type: Peaceworks

Mediation, Negotiation & Dialogue

How to calm violent crises? Nigeria has an idea.

How to calm violent crises? Nigeria has an idea.

Friday, June 4, 2021

By: Darren Kew

If U.S. and international policymakers hope to see Africa stabilize amid the world’s crises of violence, record human displacement and the COVID pandemic, Nigeria must be center stage. This demographic giant, home to one in five sub-Saharan Africans, now faces a perfect storm of violent conflicts that pose an existential challenge. Yet Nigeria also offers its own solutions for stabilization—including a low-cost innovation worthy of international support: peacebuilding agencies operated by governments in three of the country’s 36 states. This timely model offers localized approaches to the roots of violence and is relevant to nations worldwide.

Type: Analysis and Commentary

Global Policy; Mediation, Negotiation & Dialogue

Nigeria’s State Peacebuilding Institutions: Early Success and Continuing Challenges

Nigeria’s State Peacebuilding Institutions: Early Success and Continuing Challenges

Friday, June 4, 2021

By: Darren Kew

Three states in Nigeria's conflict-prone Middle Belt—Plateau, Kaduna, and Adamawa—have established peace institutions in recent years. Although the young agencies have made strides toward organizing improved initiatives to quell religious, ethnic, and farmer-herder conflicts in the region, all three face daunting funding and structural challenges. This report provides recommendations for increasing the agencies’ financial stability and organizational independence, helping them build peace in their own states and serve as a model for other states to launch their own peace institutes.

Type: Special Report

Mediation, Negotiation & Dialogue

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