|FOR THE ORGANIZER AND THE DIALOGUE LEADER
3. Conducting an Effective Community Dialogue on Race
|The racial dialogue has four phases.
The dialogue design presented here contains four phases that have proven useful in moving participants through a natural process from sharing individual experiences to gaining a deeper understanding of those experiences to committing to collective action. Whether meeting for one dialogue session or a series of sessions, participants move through all four phases, exploring and building on shared experiences. The first phase sets the tone and explores the question Who Are We? through the sharing of personal stories. The second phase helps participants understand Where Are We? through a deeper exploration of personal and shared racial history in the community During the third phase, participants develop a vision for the community, in response to the question Where Do We Want To Be? In the fourth phase, participants answer the question, What Will We Do As Individuals and With Others To Make A Difference? Often, they discover shared interests and start working together on specific projects.
You are ready to begin the dialogue.
Phase I: Who Are We?
This phase sets the tone and context for the dialogue, which begins with the sharing of personal stories and experiences. In addition to serving an ice-breaking function, this kind of personal sharing helps to level the playing field among participants and improve their understanding by hearing each others' experiences.
Welcome, Introduction and Overview
It's not always easy to talk about race relations. A commitment to the dialogue process---open, thoughtful, focused---will help us make progress. Your presence here shows you want to help improve race relations in this community, and just being here is an important step.
Starting the Dialogue
Often the most difficult part of talking about race is getting started. People may feel uncomfortable at first and hesitant about expressing their personal beliefs. To get people talking, it may help to relate personal stories or anecdotes, or to bring up a race-related incident that has occurred within the community.
Let's begin by looking at the first question: Who Are We? By listening to one another's personal stories, we can gain insights into our own beliefs and those of others, and come to new understandings of the issues we face. By sharing our personal experiences, we can learn more about each other as individuals and about how we have been influenced by our racial and/or ethnic origins. We can also shed light on our different perceptions and understandings of race relations.
Begin with questions that allow people to talk about their own lives and what is important to them. Don't focus on race at first. Give people a chance just to get to know each other as individuals and to find out what they have in common. Examples of questions to use include--
Explore how race affects us on a day-today basis. Examples of questions to
Summarize the session at meeting's end.
Evaluate the meeting. Ask such questionsas-
Bring the meeting to an end and defuse any tensions. You might say, Thank you for coming. Any final thoughts? Next week, we will ...
Phase II: Where Are We?
This phase explores questions that highlight our different experiences and different perceptions about the kinds of problems our society is facing with regard to race. This phase is about people expressing their different understandings about race, then exploring the underlying conditions producing them. It centers on the idea that it makes sense to talk about what we are facing before we talk about solutions. By the end of this phase, participants should have identified the themes, issues, and problems in their community.
Let's turn now to our second question: Where Are We? The purpose of this section is to look at our current experiences of race and ethnicity and to discuss the state of race relations in our community. Since this is the part where we really get down to business as far as identifying the underlying causes of any racial issues in our community, the discussion may get a little heated at times. It is okay to feel uncomfortable, as that is part of the difficult process of making change.
Begin with questions that get people to talk about their current
experiences with race relations. Examples include-
Focus the dialogue on the state of race relations in the community Questions
to help get started include-
Summarize the session, evaluate it, andbring the meeting to an end.
Phase III: Where Do We WantTo Go?
The goal of this phase is to move away from the "me" and get people to think and talk about possible directions for change. In this segment, participants begin to build their collective vision. They first identify what would be a part of that vision and then "brainstorm" about how they could all help to build it (suggest "we" statements be used). By the end of this session, participants should have identified accomplishments, barriers to overcome, and opportunities for further action.
Let's turn our attention to the question, Where Do We Want To Go? We share a common desire to improve race relations so let's talk about what we mean by that and explore specific things we might do to achieve that goal.
Have participants talk about their vision of what they would like to see in
the community. You could ask questions such as
Help participants to build their future vision. Ask questions like-
Turn the dialogue to the question of what individuals can do towards
improving race relations. Ask questions like-
Explore the roles that the community's institutions and government play in helping race relations. How could they do a better job?
Summarize the session, evaluate it, and bring the meeting to an end.
Phase IV: What Will We Do, As Individuals and With Others,To Make a Difference?
The purpose of this session is to begin a productive conversation on specific actions that individuals will take, by themselves or with others, to make a difference in their communities. This session presents a range of concrete actions for change.
While the racial issues we are facing in our communities sometimes seem overwhelming, it is possible to make a difference. By participating in this dialogue, you have already crossed the racial divide looking for better understanding and strategies that work. The purpose of this session is to draw out ideas for steps we can take-as individuals, in groups, and as a whole community-to face the challenge of race-related issues.
Try to get participants to move from words to actions. Ask questions like--
Brainstorm action ideas with participants, recording their responses on a flip chart. Share any follow-up plans.
Summarize the session, evaluate it, and bring the meeting to an end.
Pass out an evaluation form (see Section2, page 9, for possible questions).
Table of Contents
Characteristics of Community Dialogues
Starting Steps for a Dialogue
Conducting an Effective Community Dialogue on Race
The Role of the Dialogue Leader
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