People in conversation

Release: Fellowship to Empower NC Community Leaders to Combat Polarization

Image: Community Dialogue Fellowship

Community Dialogue Fellowship applications are due June 14, 2024

Chapel Hill, NC | May 1, 2024 - America faces a crisis of division, from the halls of Congress to the backyards of Chapel Hill. Now, community leaders and cornerstone institutions in the Triangle area have a chance to stop the spread of polarization together.

The Community Dialogue Fellowship will equip 32 local leaders to transform the culture of the Triangle region, one institution at a time. Participating fellows will be empowered to build connection, trust, and understanding in the spaces where they work, teach, or volunteer. By improving the way people engage one another in these influential spaces, fellows will catalyze a shift in the larger community—away from entrenched conflict and polarization, toward collaboration and connection.

Applications for the fellowship will be accepted on a rolling basis through June 14, 2024 and can be submitted at the Essential Partners website. Selected fellows will be notified no later than June 28, 2024. Appropriate candidates include:

  • Business, nonprofit, and foundation leaders
  • Civic and elected officials
  • Public safety officers
  • Museum staff and arts professionals
  • Public librarians
  • Community organizers
  • Educators and school administrators
  • Pastors and faith leaders

The fellowship launches with in-person trainings to equip fellows with effective tools that encourage healthier patterns of communication and authentic relationships across different identities, perspectives, and values. The trainings will be followed by a nine-month program of coaching and peer support in a local community of practice as fellows apply these new tools in their own contexts.

The Community Dialogue Fellowship is the second phase of the larger Community Cornerstones initiative, an ambitious project that seeks to leverage the power of local leaders and important community cornerstones—institutions such as churches, schools, nonprofits, and corporations—to improve the way Triangle residents navigate differences of perspective around issues that matter deeply to them.

The Community Cornerstones and the Community Dialogue Fellowship will be led by experts from a trio of nonprofits, Essential Partners, the Dispute Settlement Center, and Interfaith Photovoice. This initiative is made possible by a generous grant from the New Pluralists, as part of their Healing Starts Here initiative.

Community Dialogue Fellowship applications will be accepted on a rolling basis through June 14, 2024, and can be submitted at the Essential Partners website. Selected fellows will be notified no later than June 28, 2024.

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Press Contact
Daniel Pritchard
Director of Marketing and Communications
Essential Partners


About Essential Partners
Founded in 1989, Essential Partners helps people build relationships across differences to address their communities’ most pressing challenges. EP has brought its research-based approach to conflict transformation to colleges and secondary schools, museums and libraries, civic organizations and faith communities, nonprofits and corporations across the United States.

About Interfaith Photovoice
Intergroup Photovoice brings together people from different backgrounds to explore what their beliefs, practices, and values look like in everyday life. A project typically unfolds through a series of conversations in which diverse groups of participants discuss photographs they compose in response to prompts provided by a facilitator. Through these conversations, participants work together to identify positive experiences, shared concerns, and opportunities for change. At the end of a project, participants’ photographs are curated into a visual narrative that can be used to tell their story. Over the last three decades, applications of photovoice have expanded beyond their origins in public health to engage communities around a variety of concerns including poverty, housing, mental health and stigma, food access, education, healthcare, and a host of social problems. Find out more at

About the Dispute Settlement Center
Founded in 1978 as the first community mediation center in North Carolina, the Center’s mission is to promote and bring about the peaceful settlement of disputes and to prevent the escalation of conflict through mediation, conciliation, facilitation, and training. They now serve nearly 3000 people each year, offering services to the entire community without regard to ability to pay. Learn more at

A writer, translator, and editor, Daniel Pritchard serves as the Director of Marketing and Communications for Essential Partners.