a strategy that might have worked last time and to listen for what is needed in the present moment. Most of all, it requires humility. The facilitator is a guiding voice, not an authoritative one. Inviting Dialogue Conference / Difficult Dialogues For the Inviting Dialogue conference, Clark University and The Public Conversations Project brought together participants from a dozen institutions of higher education for a unique conference on renewing the deep purposes of their work. Creating conscious space is a central attribute of dialogue and one that the conference organizers were committed to from the early stages of the planning process. We used several visual devices to both create and reinforce this spaceâ€”to capture the thoughts, energy and ideas of the participants. Typically, a structured dialogue begins with the forming of agreementsâ€”guidelines that make the dynamics of exchange clear and transparent. Given the short duration of the sessions at the conference, we generated a series of agreements in advance. Before beginning each dialogue session, participants were asked to review the agreements, spinning them through their fingers and sharing them aloud among the group. It was important that each person be able to ground their understanding in an embodied experience. The strips remained in bowls at the center of each subsequent conversation, serving as a visual reminder of those agreements. The walls of the main conference room held the space for conversation in another wayâ€”becoming a participatory canvas for generating ideas and asking questions related to conference themes. Participants were encouraged to add their voices between and during sessions, prompting new dialogues during the conference as well as afterwards. The questions remained for several weeks, serving as a backdrop to the public events the Difficult Dialogues program held there during the semester.
Published on Jul 1, 2011