Transformative Dialogue

July 22, 2012

A couple years ago (wow, was it really that long ago?) I read the book The Promise of Mediation, about Transformative Mediation, and reflected on the topic a bit. I’ve been following a couple blogs about it off and on, including one from the Institute for the Study of Conflict Transformation, and today there was an interesting blog post about “Transformative Dialogue” being used in Africa:

…we began by defining what a transformative dialogue would have as its goal: to change the quality of the interaction between community members, allowing people to interact from a position of clarity and strength; being open and perhaps responsive to the perspective of others, whether they agree or disagree.

I have been interested in the idea of dialogue for a while, and the descriptions in this post are right in line with what I imagine dialogue can and should be: a coming together of people with different perspectives, with the only goal being to have a positive interaction. I also strongly believe that the best (only) way to help people is to help them help themselves. That is, we cannot go in to someone else’s conflict or situation and tell them what to do. All we can do is support them in figuring out for themselves what to do. Transformative dialogue as described in the blog post clearly addresses this:

Unlike many other third parties, a transformative facilitator has no goal other than to support party decision-making and inter-party perspective taking. We respect the commitment to peace and reconciliation held by many practitioners and acknowledge the value of those goals. But we believe that the best way to get to help communities get to peace and reconciliation is to focus on supporting interactional change while having the patience to allow community members to move at their own pace. As transformative facilitators, we do not determine the agenda, who needs to be involved, or what ground rules need to be in place for a conversation. We do not prioritize inter-ethnic interaction over intra-ethnic interaction nor see the intervener as the architect of change. All choices, including these, are left to community members.

I would like to have the opportunity someday both to work on dialogue and to learn more about transformative practices. I am still not certain I agree one hundred percent with the transformative approach, but this post resonated with me and it strikes me that perhaps this approach makes more sense to me in the context of dialogue rather than mediation.