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Network for Peace through Dialogue

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Living Room Dialogues

The Living Room Dialogue (LRD) is a methodology developed by the Network for Peace through Dialogue for mutual learning within and among grassroots groups. The aim is to promote respectful communication about critical issues.

The Living Room Dialogue process is one example of a popular education process in that it:

  • Is inclusive and accessible to people with a variety of education levels,
  • Addresses the issues people face in their communities,
  • Is based on the lived experience of those participating in the learning,,
  • Is participatory, and
  • Is interactive.

The structure of the discussion

There is always a subject for the discussion. Sometimes there is a person who has an experience to share, sometimes there are reflections from partner groups to discuss, and sometimes there is simply a question that promotes thoughtful engagement.

What is needed?

Someone needs to take charge of inviting participants to the meeting and someone needs to lead the session. There also should be a note-taker who will write up the session. If the group is large, a time keeper and a vibes watcher (one who keeps aware of feelings in the group and will interrupt if they note feelings which are going unattended) can help.

We usually ask people to bring a snack to share and allow a half hour at the beginning of the meeting for people to relax and socialize.

A two-hour program may look like this:

  • Brief introduction of the subject by facilitator; participants introduce themselves (10 minutes)
  • Review of the Dialogue Practices used by the Network (5 minutes)
  • Presentation by a specially invited guest, showing of a video, or some other way to provide background information about the subject (up to 20 minutes).
  • Open the floor for discussion. Usually we sit in a circle and then go around the group at least once so that everyone has an opportunity to speak if they so desire. Sometimes we have used a "talking stick" process in which an object, the stick, is passed to whoever wants to speak. This tends to make people more thoughtful about what they say and how long they speak. If the number of participants is large we ask them to form smaller groups of four or five to confer and then bring everyone together again to share insights from the small groups (60-75 minutes).
  • Conclusion (10 minutes).

For the conclusion, invite the group to reflect for a couple of minutes and then to share something that was a new learning for them during the session. If some people do not want to speak that is fine. If the group is large invite a only a few people to share their insights.

Living Room Dialogues

Dialogue Practices

The following Dialogue Practices have been refined by the Network over the years and are introduced at the opening of every Living Room Dialogue:

  • Listen for understanding – listen with equal respect to each person present.
  • Speak from your heart as well as your mind – speak only when you are sincerely moved to make an honest contribution from your own experience.
  • Suspend judgment – let go of any need to be right or have a right answer; try to suspend certainty.
  • Hold space for differences – embracae all points of view; change the "buts" to "and".
  • Remain open to all outcomes.
  • Slow down – let there be spaces in the dialogue.

An internationally renowned Peace Educator, Betty Reardon of Teacher's College, Columbia University, described the process like this, "…We need to encourage this kind of conversation to develop thinking for a process of change. In the conversation all have something to say. This is a way to come to a common knowledge. This is the basis of what we have to do."

Peacebuilders Program

Program Description

We have been having a series of Living Room Dialogues focused around peacebuilders since 2012. For the 2014-2015 sessions we are going to focus on current activities to address timely issues in society. In a 15-20 minute presentation, the featured person will :

  • identify particular issues that you consider important,
  • how you came to determine that these issues were most important for you to focus on, and then
  • what you are doing currently regarding these issues.

Following the presentation and a moment's reflection for the group, each person present will have an opportunity to share a thought or two and then the dialogue will begin. We close with a summary of the main points discussed and perhaps a decision to take action or deepen the conversation at another time.

They are small group sessions (up to 13 people) done in our living room at 240 E. 93 St., NYC. At 6:30 pm we begin by sharing snacks which people have brought. This usually turns into a light supper. We conclude about 8:45. Peggy Ray always writes up the session and we post it on our website. See the write-ups of each of the sessions to date in our archives.

Our Common Ground Project

Program Description

"Our Common Ground" is the name of a renewed focus for the Network for Peace through Dialogue. It will continue discussion of topics that surfaced during the international conference titled "Neighborhood by Neighborhood: How can we build a sustainable world?" sponsored by the Network in 2002, which included representation from the Philippines, Germany, Zimbabwe and the US. "Our Common Ground" will spread the understanding and practice of dialogue with a heightened awareness of the soil, water, air and elements we share. The goal is to deepen our understanding of our place in the universe and relationship to Earth.

The full program description can be downloaded at the : Our Common Ground Project Page

A summary of the program can be viewed here : We might extinct ourselves.

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