The Origins Of Community Dialogue

In the summer of 1997, an IRA cease-fire led to multi-party negotiations after years of conflict. Northern Ireland's future was being negotiated behind closed doors while tensions permeated the community. In this context, 30 people of diverse backgrounds but sharing common purpose formed Community Dialogue to encourage deeper understanding of our diverse positions on the critical issues affecting our future and to build an agreed peaceful society shared by our divided peoples.
 
Vision:
Our vision is of a vibrant, just and inclusive society, informed and empowered through dialogue.
 
Mission:
To engage people at all levels in dialogue that challenges racism and sectarianism and encourages peace building.
 
Core Activities
 
Our peace building experience led us to utilise dialogue as the most effective mechanism.
 
We:
  • Facilitate dialogues within and between diverse groups on issues of conflict.
  • Train people in dialogue and dialogue facilitation.
  • Produce learning materials to encourage peace building attitudes and behaviours.
 
Dialogue is:
  • A different, more effective way of talking about contentious issues.
  • An unfolding process of transforming and deepening understanding.
It deepens understanding of conflict, producing shared understanding between people in divided societies by shifting focus from stated positions we argue over to needs underlying them. Dialogue involves active listening, trying to understand where others are coming from.
 
In our dialogues we ask people to:
  • Question their positions and look at the needs underlying them.
  • Question the positions of others and look at the needs underlying them.
  • Explore how to meet those sometimes shared and sometimes conflicting needs.
We also ask:
  • What do you want?
  • What do you need?
  •  What could you live with?
The impact of moving from argument over position to understanding shared need is profound and transformative. It changes people forever. They understand the need to see conflict from other perspectives; they see that shared needs underlie conflict. They have the power to respond to conflict in a creative win win rather than destructive zero sum way.
 
Historical Development
 
Phase 1: 1997-2007 Embedding Peace
We concentrated on the conflict and its legacy, helping embed the peace process and build joint ownership of the conflict and its resolution as well as shared ownership of this place and its future. We spread our methodology internationally through training programmes.
 
Phase 2: 2007-2017 Envisioning A Multicultural Future
Our engagement broadens, embracing an increasingly pluralistic society where sectarianism overlaps conflicts about racial, ethnic, gender, economic and sexual identity issues. We are developing alternative dialogue methodologies to enhance our engagement in a milieu of increasingly diverse cultures and issues.