Only a culture of dialogue enables all people to relate peacefully, justly, and productively.


Sustained Dialogue develops leaders able to transform differences into the strong relationships essential to effective decision-making, democratic governance, and peace.

Carter Camp David


Sustained Dialogue (SD) is a process codified by Dr. Harold “Hal” Saunders, an American diplomat who was instrumental in a number of peace processes in the Middle East in the 1970s onwards, including the famous Camp David treaties between Israel and its neighbors. During his involvement in negotiations, he observed that participants’ relationships seemed to evolve through a recognizable pattern. In the early 1990s, Hal distilled over thirty years of experience and observations into two key concepts that serve as the foundations of SD.

SD has been used in the former Soviet Union, Tajikistan, in the longest continuous meetings between Russian and U.S. citizens, and in other communities around the world. Sustained Dialogue is also a member of the Bridge Alliance, a coalition comprised of over 80 organizations working towards strengthening democratic practice in America. In 1999, a set of students at Princeton began using the process to solve deep-seated issues around race relations. The Sustained Dialogue Campus Network has grown over 15 years to campuses around the world.

Dr. Hal Saunders served as the President of the Sustained Dialogue Institute from its founding in 2002 until June 2013. He remained Board Chair until his passing in 2016.

Hal spent his early career working in government. After serving as a member of the National Security Council Staff under Presidents Kennedy, Johnson, and Nixon, Hal moved to the State Department in 1974 and served as Assistant Secretary for the Near East and South Asia. He was intensively involved in the Arab-Israeli peace process, 1974-1981. He was a key member in the small U.S. team that mediated five Arab-Israeli agreements in six years, including the Kissinger shuttle agreements, the Camp David accords and the Egyptian-Israeli Peace Treaty. After leaving government in 1981, he participated in a wide range of non-official dialogues among Soviet and American citizens; Israelis and Palestinians; Indians, Pakistanis, and Kashmiris; Americans and Chinese. From those experiences, he conceptualized the five-stage process of Sustained Dialogue.

He is the author a number of books, including The Other Walls: The Arab-Israeli Peace Process in a Global Perspective (1985); A Public Peace Process: Sustained Dialogue to Transform Racial and Ethnic Conflicts (1999); Politics Is about Relationship: A Blueprint for the Citizens’ Century (2005); and Sustained Dialogue in Conflicts: Transformation and Change (2011).

In 1999, Hal began collaborating with students at his alma mater, Princeton University, to implement Sustained Dialogue to attend to identity tensions on campus. He collaborated with SD graduates as they founded the Sustained Dialogue Campus Network in 2003 as a project of the Sustained Dialogue Institute.

Carter Camp David

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"The point about Sustained Dialogue is that it really works. It seems we are all searching restlessly for this better world -- but with the barriers up. How to transform that? Turns out the template is already here, in a remarkable concept with an amazing track record. Sustained Dialogue sells itself, because it's about a better YOU: more open, more listening, more relational. In the end, this isn't a program, it's a way to see the world."

"When I got involved as a first-year student concerned about race and class tensions at Princeton, I never thought teaching SD would take me around the world. That was over a decade ago, and I can’t think of any more important work than building community capacity to listen deeply enough to be changed by what you learn, especially in deeply polarized, deeply violent times."

"The key mission of SDI is to create a world the people coexist peacefully, justify and productively through dialogue across divides. As a new staff member and recent immigrant to the United States, I have seen places where moderation, tolerance and listening don’t happen and I can definitely testify as to how important these values are in the public life of a country. People simply feel happier when they feel engaged and heard. Recently I joined SDCN’s Alabama conference, and I was very impressed with the 5-stage process from the SDCN curriculum."

"I can't imagine more important work than contributing to help support the next generation of leaders who are able to communicate effectively, listen deeply, respect and empathize with others and take action to make the world a better place."

"All my life I’ve worked with the challenges of social advancement; in poor countries and in distressed communities in wealthy ones.  Over time I came to realize that while humans have an instinctive impulse to communicate, often this yearning is hampered by obstacles put up by people themselves in attempts to protect their own or by barriers posed by circumstances beyond their control.  SD liberates this urge to reach out and connect constructively with the other."

"What I’ve seen Sustained Dialogue do: Open the eyes of Soviet elites to new ways of thinking in the 1980’s; enable enemies in the Caucasus together to develop peace proposals; assist a Jewish synagogue to become welcoming to its highly diverse community; eliminate barriers to open communication in a social service agency, and create an environment where poor people found dignity, self-respect and capacity for change."

Sustained Dialogue was a transformational part of my undergraduate experience at Princeton.  It is an honor for me now to work for SDI, an organization dedicated to bridging communication across lines of difference.  I believe that Sustained Dialogue addresses an intrinsic need of human beings: to be genuinely heard by each other.

"When I think about what could work to change our world, nation, and campus communities, I think about Sustained Dialogue. I think about a group of people, or an entire campus, that come together and decide to learn deeply from each other and be good to each other. I think about people that dedicate themselves to crossing bridges on their campus to build new relationships, to making change, to fighting for each other."

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