People in conversation

Frequently Asked Questions

On this page you'll find answers to some of the most common questions we are asked—like how our approach differs from mediation, what our nonpartisan/transpartisan identity means, and whether we offer DEI training.

If you find your question isn't answered here, please do contact us.

How can my community, campus, or organization work with Essential Partners? What's the first step?

Essential Partners offers training, facilitation, coaching, and consultation to build the capacity of your whole organization or community. We custom design trainings, offer ongoing enrichment, support through a global community of practice, and even facilitate particularly tough conversations.

The first step is quick, easy, and free. Click here to schedule an initial free consultation with a member of our programming staff.

Will you travel to me?

Absolutely! Our work takes us all over the world. In the past 30 years, we’ve worked in communities all across North America and in more than twenty countries across the globe.

My community/organization needs a mediator. Do you offer mediation or conflict resolution services?

Sometimes communities need a conversation that ends in a policy decision, vote, or agreement. Frequently our projects lead to resolutions, collective decisions, or agreements. But we do not consider ourselves primarily conflict resolution practitioners.

Our work transforms conflicts. Dialogue prioritizes communication, trust, and relationships as the necessary foundation for effective collaboration, conflict resolution, and decision-making.  

As one recent client noted, “The dialogue had to come first and inform the decision-making process because even in this very small and homogeneous population, folks had become deeply divided.”

Our work is most valuable for communities  that wish to be more cohesive, more resilient, and better prepared to face difficult moments or decisions in the future.

EP’s approach creates a solid foundation for collective action, mediation, or strategic planning. Contact us for a free consultation so we can set you up for success.

Do you provide diversity, anti-racism, or implicit bias training?

Essential Partners helps communities, schools, and workplaces build trust, deepen mutual understanding, and find points of connection across differences of identities, values, and perspectives. Through hands-on training, coaching, design, and consultation, we invest our partners with the ability to navigate differences with honesty, dignity, and generosity.

We don't offer DEI, anti-racism, or implicit bias training ourselves. However, we frequently collaborate on initiatives that include these types of trainings—often providing the tools people need to put these new insights and frameworks into practice.

Want to learn more? Contact us for a free consultation.

What are Essential Partners’ political affiliations?

Essential Partners is nonpartisan (really!). We have collaborated with pastors in evangelical congregations, cross-partisan initiatives, and progressive advocacy groups.

One high-profile form of polarization centers around political partisanship (think Red/Blue) but it's not the only difference that can cause dysfunction, paralysis, and conflict. 

We provide the skills for people to navigate whatever differences matter most to them. That might mean gridlock between people who vote for different political parties, it might mean tension among people with different racial identities—or it might mean a difference of view about the new school building or a new public art installation.

Any point of difference can spark a polarizing cycle.

We work with people who want to engage constructively across differences because the status quo isn’t working, people who want to feel heard and feel their voices make a difference. Our approach is often needed as much within political groups as between them.

EP’s approach has tangible outcomes: greater sense of belonging and inclusion, more resilience in the face of challenges, improved trust across differences, a deeper and more nuanced understanding of “the other side,” and genuine personal relationships. We design each intervention based on the needs, purposes, culture, and participants in a specific community. No two are the same.

How are you different from all these other dialogue groups?

The groundbreaking innovations of Essential Partners, founded in 1989, has been a foundational influence in the field of dialogue across differences, de-polarization, and belonging.

More recently-formed groups—such as Braver Angels, Living Room Conversations, and Ben Franklin Circles, among many others—utilize aspects of our approach, and in many cases a member of EP’s leadership team served as a thought partner on the design of these programs, lending specific exercises and co-designing proprietary engagements. We are proud of the impact we have had and continue to have.

What distinguishes Essential Partners is our commitment to lasting transformation at the community or institutional level.

While some groups aim to alleviate an immediate crisis or a specific type of conflict (political polarization, for instance), our vision is much broader. Our goal is to equip communities with a greater capacity to navigate all differences of values, beliefs, and identities—whenever and however they arise. We work with them now, helping them navigate immediate challenges, and then we continue to serve as a resource, coach, and thought-partner in perpetuity.

EP also boasts the leading evaluation and research program in the field, the Laura R. Chasin Monitoring, Evaluation, and Learning Program. Through a combination of surveys and qualitative interviews, we track and measure the impact of our work for as long as two years after a project has ended. With this data in hand, we are constantly innovating new pedagogies, improving the Reflective Structured Dialogue framework, and creating new tools to meet the emerging needs of our partners.

We envision a world of thriving communities, strengthened by difference, connected by trust.

Find out more about what we do.

We would like you to teach us how to communicate more effectively in difficult moments. Could you do that in a 90-minute professional development session?

Nope. There is no “speed-dating” version of this work that has a lasting impact. Question anyone who tells you otherwise.