Constructive relationships are the keys to peaceful democratic, social, economic, and political development. Some things only governments can do – provide security, make and enforce law, and fund major programs. But only citizens can transform conflictual human relationships, modify human behavior and change political culture.
The Columbus Indiana Community Area Sustained Dialogue, of which Phil Stewart is a co-chairman, now completing two full years of monthly sessions, focuses its work on identifying and addressing obstacles to and creating opportunities for economically challenged citizens to achieve self-sufficiency – economically, socially and emotionally. The dialogue has created a safe space that regularly attracts Columbus area residents from all sectors of the community. Outcomes include a shifting from the concept of “client” to “citizen,” from humiliation to dignity for those who struggle, as well as concrete actions such as the development of a comprehensive program to ensure those ready to work have reliable transportation. More broadly, participants note that their dialogue continues to have a transformative impact on the local political climate, moving from confrontation to listening, and from listening to dialogue.