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