Turning dialogue into a new public school in Ohio

The city of Oberlin, Ohio, faced a daunting municipal challenge: deciding whether to renovate four dilapidated school buildings, or to replace them with a single, modern, costly edifice.

Risks and rewards were present for both options, and the question had been publicly debated for nearly a decade with little forward progress. The public was frustrated that nothing was being done, but there was also no consensus on what to do.

Beyond Civility: Empowering high school students in Arkansas

Katie Hyten, EP's Director of Program Operations, recently joined the Winthrop Rockefeller Institute (WRI) for Beyond Civility: Empowering students with the tools to dialogue across differences. Katie led a dialogue in a diverse group of 40 high school students from across Arkansas. Janet Harris writes about the program at the WRI blog:

Small Communities, Big Divisions: Fostering Dialogue in Rural Arkansas with the Winthrop Rockefeller Institute

Late last summer, the Winthrop Rockefeller Institute (WRI) in Conway County, Arkansas, hired Essential Partners to offer two days of facilitation training to their program officers. The following week, the Arkansas Agriculture Secretary reached out to WRI to facilitate meetings of a task force on the use of the herbicide Dicamba.

Dicamba is one of the most effective herbicides for taming the spread of pigweed, an invasive plant threatening crops throughout the region.

Race, Religion, and Ethnic Diversity in Columbia, MD

Urged on by their member of congress and state delegates, a group of six faith leaders in Howard County, Maryland contacted Essential Partners to support a series of dialogues about Race, Faith, and Ethnic Diversity. Representing Christianity, Judaism, and Islam, these leaders wanted to open a dialogue across tradition, race, and ethnicity to repair the fabric of their communities as well as the civic life that is essential to democracy.

How a Guns Factsheet Improved Online Dialogue

We don’t usually think of data as a roadblock to productive discourse. We can take it for granted that the world is objective and measurable, and that everyone sees what we see. But that’s not always the case.

The forest for the trees

For two days in the shadow of the U.S. Capitol Building, Guns: An American Conversation brought supporters from both sides of the issue together to engage in dialogue about their views.

Guns: An American Conversation

The subject of guns in America lends itself to strong emotion and great strife, especially in the face of continued mass shootings. We all wish we could make it stop, but we can’t seem to agree on where to focus. The guns themselves? The troubled souls who carry out these acts of violence? The inconsistent regulation of existing laws? The poor infrastructure for recognizing this danger?

How Better Conversations Change Communities

Like all the generations who came before us, we face a range of challenges that call for careful consideration, constructive debate, and collaborative problem-solving. But unlike any time in recent history, we are sharply and painfully divided. And the problem isn't simply that two large constellations of ideological thought reflexively oppose one another at every turn: it's that, underlying this opposition, we have forgotten how to talk about our conflicts constructively.

So: we need to talk.

What Comes Next?

Over the last couple of weeks, all my liberal friends are asking each other the same question: “are you going to March?” Washington, New York, Boston, whatever the location, there hardly seems to be a justifiable excuse for a woman who cares about reproductive rights not to be marching. Being a woman suddenly demands public demonstration. We’re getting swept into a narrative of us and them once again - you’re either “with us” or “against us.” There is a yawning gap between the two, into which many people fall.

How Does Power Affect our Conversations?

In a recent conversation with activists on a college campus, student leaders informed our practitioners that student protesters showed little interest in dialogue because they assumed that “dialogue” was an attempt to placate them by the administration. The power of the administration carried both weight and assumptions. In another of our dialogues, a participant assumed he would have to begin speaking with an apology for his privilege before even participating in the conversation.

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