Some Contemporary Dialogue Models
by Joseph Phelps
This Article Summary written by: Mariya Yevsyukova, Conflict Research Consortium
Citation: Phelps, Joseph. "Some Contemporary Dialogue Models." MCS Conciliation Quarterly. Spring 1996. Pp. 9-10.
The Public Conversation Project (PCP)
This model stems from the approach used by family therapists. Representatives of the two sides of the conflict spend the evening together. After dinner, they sit in a circle with their opponents and answer questions about how they got involved in the conflict, what the main issues are and what concerns them about their own positions. Then they ask each other questions and at the end reflect on their experience of participating in the dialogue. There is no pressure to come up with solutions or proposals for action. The goal of this dialogue is to allow people to talk from their personal experience, rather than argue in favor of their positions.
Common Ground Network for Life and Choice (CGN)
This model has the goal of helping fighting groups to find common ground. First, a steering committee consisting of representatives of the two sides meets to discuss possible common issues and prepare for a dialogue workshop. Next, a few volunteers are trained by someone from CGN to be small-group facilitators. The workshop itself takes a whole day. Participants meet in a large group and introduce themselves and their positions on the issue. After that, participants talk about their personal experience with the issue in small groups. They take true or false test on their beliefs and then try to answer the same questions from the position of the opponent. This helps to identify similarities, differences and misperceptions of the parties about each other.
The Paired Congregations
This model brings together two churches to discuss issues of mutual concern. The process consists of four two-hour sessions dedicated to (1) setting the ground rules and exploring why participants are interested in the issue, (2) identifying different perspectives on the problem, (3) approaching the issue from the position of faith, (4) suggesting an action plan for dealing with conflict created by differences in views.
The Whitsitt Experiment
This is a real life situation of moderate and conservative students of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky, living together in one dormitory and managing successfully their disagreements. Despite strong differences, students, through dialogue, were able to recognize each other's humanity. Living together and caring for each other helped them to establish communication and understanding.
The Interfaith Health Program
This model tries to take the best from the Whitsitt experience. It unites people of faith on the basis of ethics of caring for the poor, sick and needy. It believes that bringing them together to do practical work will make them to talk to each other. Dialogue becomes a secondary issue, developing in the context of practical work for God.