Dialogue is a special form of communication that creates positive results for individuals, groups, organizations, and communities. Some of the outcomes of dialogic communication are:
- A more engaged, effective and satisfied level of participation
- More constructive relationships among diverse stakeholder groups
- Recognition of one’s own and others’ legitimate interests, respect for others beliefs and experiences, and increased understanding of both sides’ underlying beliefs and values
- An understanding of how community members shape and define issues and problems by their joint actions, and how to move forward into more constructive patterns of communication
- Emergent leadership and enhanced capacities within the community to organize and run high-quality, inclusive, and constructive meetings
- Concrete plans and decisions based on collaboration and consensus, resulting in greater buy-in and community ownership
PDC is committed to fostering high quality communication in the public sphere that results in collaborative problem solving, appreciation for different perspectives, and identification of common ground.
Our approach to dialogue and public conversations distinctly focuses on communication processes and the resulting outcomes and relationships created in our communities. Working collaboratively with our clients, we design and guide communication processes that foster trust and respect, build relationships, and focus on desirable outcomes for all members of the community.
7 Principles for Developing Public Dialogue in Communities
- We view the community as a system comprised of a complex tapestry of interconnected conversations. Thinking systemically will help us to identify the various “stakeholder” groups in the community and involve them in our project. Additionally, it enables us to see each step of the project as a series of “conversational turns” in which what occurs in one series of meetings is incorporated into the next round of discussions; each discussion growing out of one context and affecting the next context.
- We view the community as a “multiverse” containing many social worlds. In addition to interconnected conversations, the community is comprised of stakeholder groups with different and sometimes, conflicting ideas of what their community should be. We see these differences as enriching rather than problematic.
- We involve the public in the project from the beginning. We think if community building is to take place, residents need to be involved throughout the project.
- We believe there should be support from the top for initiatives from the bottom. Most residents are not interested in “just talk,” instead they want to see the connection between their ideas and community initiatives and action steps. We think it’s crucial for city government to recognize and support resident involvement and for residents to feel heard. This often requires creating new places for quality communication to occur between residents and community leaders.
- We treat language as “fateful” and recognize that the way issues are framed and discussed affect the “outcomes as well as the level of trust and respect among the various stakeholders. Therefore, we always work collaboratively with the community.
- We see the entire community process as a series of dialogic conversations. We think of dialogue as the ability to state your perspectives, values, and desires while remaining open to the perspectives, values, and desires of others. We think that engaging in this form of communication creates the conditions for trust and respect and opens up possibilities for enriched actions.
- We recognize our own role in the “system.” Although we are not members of the community, we realize that whenever we facilitate a discussion or attend meetings of community stakeholders, our presence makes a difference. We need to continually remind ourselves that as facilitators we must remain neutral with regard to the outcome of community decisions, but we are passionate about the process in which those decisions are made. The process is one in which our role is to be on everybody’s side and in which all parties feel