By Harold H. Saunders
This article describes an ongoing Reconciliation Initiative undertaken in partnership between the Institute for Democracy in South Africa1(Idasa) and the Gauteng Council of Churches 2(GCC). This Initiative launched in May 2004 now has six regional dialogues at local level, each focusing on a different aspect of reconciliation. The project is grounded in social constructionist principles and merges the Appreciative Inquiry (AI) and Sustained Dialogue3(SD) methodologies. This article explores how these theoretical groundings and merging of methodologies are working to tackle the question of reconciliation from a positive approach. The central hypothesis is that history can be a “positive possibility” (Cooperrider et al, 2003:21) and through a series of Sustained Dialogues our constructions of self and the other can be a process of remembering ourselves into new ways of being.
This study examined the civic outcomes of the Sustained Dialogue model. Qualitative interviews investigated the perceived impacts of dialogue experience on post-graduate civic life, generating an inventory of 29 dialogue civic outcomes across five domains: 1) cognitions, 2) behaviors, 3) attitudes 4) skills, and 5) hopes and plans for the future.
Using a stratified randomization process, participants were selected to a two-term Sustained Dialogue program at Addis Ababa University, Ethiopia, in 2009–10. Immediately following the dialogue intervention, an attitudinal survey and a behavioral trust game were conducted with a group of 716 participants and non-participants.
Currently, The Life and Peace Institute and the Peace and Development Centre have introduced SD in Haramaya University in eastern Ethiopia, and Jimma University in South Western Ethiopia. LPI and PDC have been implementing SD in Haramaya University since April 2013 and 300 students were involved in the project. Since March 2014, implementation of SD in Jimma University has begun. Like in Haramaya University 300 students will be involved and at the request of the University, LPI and its partner PDC are setting the ground for adding a new dimension to SD in JU where faculty and administrative staff will be part of the SD.
In 2006, Priya Parker, realizing the University of Virginia’s campus climate needed dialogue, created a student-led process to improve race relations. The campus approach brings small groups of students from widely different backgrounds together for a year of deep conversation.
The roots of conflict, whether international, community or interpersonal, are most often expressed in antagonistic attitudes or perspectives towards ‘the other’. Such attitudes frequently are deeply embedded and resistant to change. Yet lasting resolution of conflict is difficult, if not impossible, unless such attitudes of hatred, mistrust and anger can be addressed. This article begins with insights from science that shows that transformation of such perceptions under certain circumstances can occur. We then describe a well-tested but little known approach
Flint (2019) Healing a Divided Nation In the wake of the U.S. 2016 election, national media has highlighted the divided nature of our country. Considering this division, dialogue is often pushed as the tool for reconciliation, healing, and bridge building. This paper takes up this call through considering the spatial practices of the Sustained Dialogue Campus Network. This turn to space makes possible a consideration of division beyond geography that takes seriously how local and global spaces are produced and
Sustained Dialogue Campus Network team members Elizabeth Wuerz, Rhonda Fitzgerald, Michaela Grenier, and Ottavia Lezzi contributed a chapter to Creating Space for Democracy: A Primer on Dialogue and Deliberation in Higher Education (edited by Nicholas V. Longo and Timothy J. Shaffer). Creating Space for Democracy is a resource book for higher education professionals seeking dialogue and deliberation methods to apply to their campuses. The SDCN team’s chapter describes the Sustained Dialogue process and current applications of the SD process on
SDCN Program Director Michaela Grenier contributed an article to the 2019 issue of the Higher Education Exchange journal, which is a journal published annually by the Kettering Foundation. Grenier’s article describes the Sustained Dialogue (SD) process, applications of the SD process on college campuses, and the impact of participation in SD campus programs on college students’ civic leadership development.
Thanks to the Kettering Foundation and the Sustained Dialogue Institute, the Saunders Collection is now digitally available at George Mason University. This archive has inestimable value to the field of conflict and peace studies, and its digitization now enables the University Libraries to share the Saunders story with the global scholarly community. Harold H. Saunders Conflict and Peace Studies Collection Saunders LUNA exhibit can be found here: http://images.gmu.edu/luna/servlet/GMU~41~41