What impact should campuses using SD expect?
Through Sustained Dialogue high impact experiences, participants develop a diverse set of leadership skills, including strong personal identity awareness, knowledge of social justice, empathy, facilitation and conflict resolution skills, and more.
Sustained Dialogue is featured in two published academic studies.
Sustained Dialogue’s Impact After Graduation
This study, conducted in 2008, interviewed college graduates who had participated in Sustained Dialogue programs in college. Previous research had demonstrated the positive impacts of dialogue during college, but this study asked “How do recent college graduates understand the influence of their college dialogue experience on their post-graduate civic life?”
Their participation impacted them in five different ways:
- Cognitions: Academic pursuits, critical thinking, new ways of thinking about diversity, etc.
- Behaviors: Involvement in diversity initiatives at work or in graduate school, engaged in politics, major life decisions, etc.
- Attitudes: Motivation and interest in diversity issues, more empathetic, more open with others, changed values about social issues, etc.
- Skills: For relating to others, and for reflecting about themselves.
- Hopes and Plans for the Future: Plans to attend graduate school or live abroad, engagement in local community, plans to use dialogue in the workplace.
Participants stated that SD impacted many of their major life decisions and how they want to raise their own children. This study found that participants developed civic skills that they used at work and in graduate school, and that these skills permeated their personal lives as well. One participant says: “It’s just a part of me and it changes how I look at things.”
* Diaz, Ande and Rachael Perrault. “Sustained Dialogue and Civic Life: Post-College Impacts” Michigan Journal of Community Service Learning. (Fall 2010). Available at: http://www.sdcampusnetwork.org/ht/a/GetDocumentAction/i/11205
In a randomized field trial* conducted comparing two-term SD participants at Addis Ababa University in Ethiopia with students who did not participate, the study found statistically significant attitudinal change:
- A decrease in mistrust
- An increase in trust between people of different ethnic origin
- An increased sense of ethnic identity
- An increased perception of being ethnically discriminated
- An increase in accommodative feelings towards students of other ethnicities leading to resulting positive relationships
* Svensson, Isak and Karen Brounéus. “Dialogue and interethnic trust: A randomized field trial of ‘sustained dialogue’ in Ethiopia.” Journal of Peace Research (August 20, 2013): 1-13. Available at: http://jpr.sagepub.com/content/early/2013/08/19/0022343313492989
SDCN also conducts pre- and post- dialogue surveys for student participants based on key measures from questions similar to The National Survey on Student Engagement, NSSE, and the Consortium on Financing Higher Education, COFHE. These surveys demonstrate:
Participants saw strong increases in some of their personal skills and/or actions because of their time in dialogue, including, but not limited to:
- Meeting new people (75% to 93%)
- Developing, understanding, and expressing their personal beliefs (82% to 87%)
- Explaining the college climate toward diversity, issues that may arise between students, and why issues persist (70% to 81%)
- Thinking critically about the experiences of others and how they might be improved (86% to 90%)
- Talking about their experiences in front of a group of their peers (81% to 84%)
- Having serious conversations with people who are very different from them in terms of race and ethnicity (72% to 76%), gender and sexual orientation (63% to 68%), and religious beliefs, political opinions, and personal values (69% to 73%)
- Taking steps if a friend, roommate, classmate, or professor makes a biased or hurtful comment (76% to 79%; 58% to 67%)
- Talking about diversity-related issues with friends (84% to 88%)
- Using inclusive language (80% to 87%)
Before and After SD: How much do you agree with the statement:
Compared with NSSE statistics, total percentages of participants who responded “Very often” or “Often” to the following questions were as such:
Other helpful SD resources:
The Tajikistan Peace-Building InitiativeThe Inter-Tajik Dialogue (ITD) was initiated in March 1993 as an unofficial dialogue intervention to deal with the ongoing Tajik civil war. ITD involved a core of ten to fourteen influential citizens of Tajikistan divided among the different political factions. A third-party team of 3 Americans and 3 Russians moderated the discussions.
ITD played a significant part in the different phases of the peace-making process in Tajikistan:
- First, in paving the way for negotiations (1993-1994). This period ended in April 1994 with the launching of the official UN-mediated negotiations to which three ITD members were delegates
- Second, in providing a parallel venue to the official negotiations where ITD members focused on the elements of a political process of national reconciliation (1994-1997). A peace agreement was concluded and signed in 1997.
- Third, in a transitional period for establishing a process of national reconciliation (1997-2000): Four ITD members became members of the Commission on National Reconciliation (CNR) which was entrusted with overseeing the implementation of the peace accords.
The Arab-American-European Dialogue (AAE) This initiative creates a space where influential and thoughtful citizens from Europe, the United States, and the Arab region gather to discuss the sources of the confrontation between the Arab world and the West and explore the terms of a new relationship between these three parts of the world. The AAE dialogue was launched in March 2004 and is now in its third year of operation. It has tackled a variety of important topics including among others: reforms in the Arab region, electoral processes in Arab countries, the relationship between state, religion and society in the West and Arab region, and an issue cluster dealing with terrorism, violence and occupation. A dialogue executive committee was formed in February 2004 and is now responsible for designing the dialogue meetings and outreach activities. Small delegations of Arab dialogue members have met with parliamentarians in Britain and Italy and with Muslim European groups in Britain. We will be organizing a series of meetings for a similar dialogue group to visit France and the EU headquarters in Brussels.
SD was used in a corporate setting to address employee engagement. After 10 weeks of dialogue, the number of employees who felt they could bring their full selves to the workplace doubled from 40% to 80%.
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.