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©2011 Public Conversations Project Feature articles Family Dinner Project 4, 12 Associate’s Corner: 1-3, 11
©2011 Public Conversations Project Feature articles Family Dinner Project 4, 12 Associate’s Corner: 1-3, 11

©2011 Public Conversations Project

Feature articles

Family Dinner Project©2011 Public Conversations Project Feature articles 4, 12 Associate’s Corner: 1-3, 11 Bob Stains 5-7, 12

4, 12 Associate’s Corner: Associate’s Corner:

1-3, 11

Bob Stains

5-7, 12 Q + A: Q + A:

Belle Abaya

6-7 From the Chair and President From the Chair and President

8-9 Her Voice: Her Voice:

Linda Stout

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Fall 2011 Newsletter

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“By the time I’m eight, I’d like to learn to tie my shoes, know how to climb a tree, and go to Africa,” said the seven-year- old over a dinner of creative homemade sushi.

The Family Dinner Project

dinner of creative homemade sushi. The Family Dinner Project Having a meal together. The concept is

Having a meal together. The concept is older than the fork. Yet, research that validates the benefits of eating dinner with your family is comparatively new—and what was once common practice feels out-of-reach for many of today’s time-challenged families on schedule overload.

what was once common practice feels out-of-reach for many of today’s time-challenged families on schedule overload.
2 Continued from cover story Much more than mere refueling, the ancient custom of eating

2

Continued from cover story

Much more than mere refueling, the ancient custom of eating together has a significant impact
Much more than mere refueling, the ancient
custom of eating together has a significant impact
on individuals’ well-being, from the nourishment
promised with each bite to the mental stimulation
of a rousing conversation to the very development
of one’s moral and ethical persona.
With creative sushi on the table and the question
“what do you hope to make happen in the next
year?” in the air, one of fifteen pilot families
tested The Family Dinner Project’s approach.
The initiative helps families achieve their own
mealtime goals related to food, fun and meaningful
conversation about topics that matter to the family,
particularly ethics.
“The idea is to create networks of people who
share this value, support each other, and who
will then inspire others,” says The Family Dinner
Project Director John Sarrouf. The Project does
this by providing facilitation tools for leaders
within the networks, online resources for
organizations and families and by building
online community.
The new and quickly growing initiative aims
to create awareness, build support and share
resources that help today’s busy families create
meaningful mealtimes. In doing so, it also has the
power to nourish ethical thinking and teach civil
discourse at home—a vital need in today’s society,
says co-founder Shelly London.

The idea emerged in 2009 when London—then a fellow at Harvard’s Advanced Leadership Initiative—was pondering the next chapter of her life. “I wanted to find a way to promote conversation about ethics and ethical living—about how we treat each other every day at home, at work and at school. ”

“Our ethics really start at home,” continues London. “So, I wanted to understand how to get families to talk about topics that are important. What do you do to promote conversation at home?”

The research that London and her team found about family dinners was powerful. From happiness to health to success (even increased vocabulary!), family mealtimes have benefits for the spirit, mind, and health of all

family members. Studies link regular family meals with higher grade-point averages, resilience and self-esteem as well as lower rates of substance abuse, teen pregnancy, eating disorders and depression.

From that research came a key understanding that shapes The Family Dinner Project’s work, says London: “Families want to have meaningful mealtimes together. They also want a way to overcome their obstacles, unlock their own family wisdom and benefit from others’ experiences.”

From trading in surface chat for meaningful conversation and navigating conflicting schedules to feeding picky eaters and facing tension, families struggle with finding the time— and skills—to connect.

“We noticed more and more that it was rare for us to sit and talk—we noticed that there was something missing,” shared Edward, one participant in The Family Dinner Project’s pilot. “I wanted to bring back the family unit. I wanted to focus on what we’re all doing that’s good and positive in life.

what we’re all doing that’s good and positive in life. Continued on next page • •

Continued on next page

• •

[This project] was a good chance to rekindle that.”

Creating online resources that support families’ change and build community

London quickly pulled together a high-level team of nine people with varied backgrounds in education, family therapy, conflict resolution, research, food, design, marketing and communications. These team members came

from a host of reputable organizations, including Massachusetts General Hospital, Harvard Medical School, Harvard’s Project Zero, and the Public Conversations Project.

Public Conversations Project’s founder Laura Chasin and Senior Vice President Bob Stains’ early involvement shaped the movement’s focus on and approach to building meaningful conversation.

That focus has since led to a more formal partnership, in which the Public Conversations Project has assumed leadership and management responsibility for The Family Dinner Project. The Public Conversations Project has embraced the opportunity to support and manage this growing program. PCP’s work has always focused on deepening trust, improving communication and collaboration and strengthening communities, and The Family Dinner Project’s work builds those capacities where skills are first learned: in families.

Tapping into professional networks that share FDP’s goals (pediatricians, family therapists, teachers)

• Publishing research that furthers understanding about how and why The Family Dinner Project works and can lead to widespread change.

“First and foremost, we wanted to get people to actually sit down together at the table and enjoy the experience,” says Ashley Sandvi, a foundation program officer and a founding team member who started working with London while completing her master’s degree at Harvard’s Graduate School of Education. “Secondly, we wanted to help people improve the quality of the conversations happening at the table. We also hoped to get all family members involved in the meal-making process, collaboratively. Kids really enjoy playing a meaningful role in mealtime.”

After encouraging families to envision their ideal mealtime and set their own goals, The Family Dinner Project provides tools and resources to support those goals.

Sign up on the organization’s Web site (www.thefamilydinnerproject.org) and you’ll be guided through a process that asks families to commit to having three meals together. Forms on the site ask each family member to outline his/ her goals—from the quality of the food to the conversation. The site provides a plethora of resources and ideas— from recipes to conversation starters and even videos of kids cooking their favorite foods—for planning the dinners. After each of the three dinners, family members evaluate how well the mealtime met their goals. The organization’s blog

“The partnership is a clear complement to the Public Conversations Project’s work,” says PCP Vice President Bob Stains. “Our commitment is to enable people to engage with folks who they perceive as different from them, and the first place that people have the chance to do that is with their families.”

After a solid year of research and a five-month formal pilot study under their belt, this team now has a four-part plan for creating a grassroots movement that improves the frequency and quality of families’ mealtimes. The future-focused roadmap includes:

provides a place for families to share their stories and

provides a place for families to share their stories and experiences with one another. Continued on

experiences with one another.

Continued on page 11

• Working with existing communities, organizations and groups of families (schools, faith institutions, online communities as well as individual families)

3

BOB STAINS: ASSOCIATES’ CORNER

Training In his 17 years at PCP, Senior Vice President Bob Stains has brought his

Training

In his 17 years at PCP, Senior Vice President Bob Stains has brought his experience

In his 17 years at PCP, Senior Vice President Bob Stains has brought his experience from the mental health field, his expertise in workshop design, and wisdom

about how people learn to the organization’s training approach and programs.

Bob became aware of PCP in 1994, when he signed up for the project’s first workshop on its fresh approach to dialogue. At the time, Bob was working for the Better Homes Foundation, traveling and teaching about helping homeless families. He found himself regularly coming up against race, gender and class issues and was hoping that this new approach would have a positive impact on his community work. “I had never seen an approach to difference and diversity like PCP’s before,” shares Bob, “an approach that started with appreciation.”

He had to miss the second session of the workshop to travel to Louisville, KY, to give a five-day training for 20 staff and volunteers from local homeless shelters. On the first day of the training, he discovered that the group was deeply divided by race, economic status, religion and sexual orientation. With the knowledge from the first session of the PCP workshop, he revised his plan and

started by facilitating a dialogue instead of teaching. Stereotypes fell away, understanding emerged and enduring relationships were formed. “It was a turning point for me,” explains Bob. “I said to myself: This is powerful. I have to get more involved with PCP.”

Bob has been deeply involved in developing PCP’s training programs since he was brought on as Training Director in 1995. In addition to co-creating more than 30 workshops for PCP, Bob has trained more than 20,000 people, both in the U.S. and abroad, over the course of his career.

Bob’s path to training took him through the world of community mental health. While working for the Massachusetts Department of Mental Health in the early 1980s as a psychotherapist, Bob helped create one of the first multidisciplinary psychiatric outreach teams in the country. The team’s mission was to find the natural helpers in a community, elicit their knowledge, highlight their strengths and equip them with basic counseling and referral skills. “We would ask around the community to find out who people went to when trouble came up,” recalls Bob. “Then we would work with folks (hairdressers, building supers, clergy, etc.) to improve community health by enhancing their capacity to help others.”

Bob went on to train mental health practitioners in several local and national settings while maintaining a clinical practice. This background was a good fit for PCP and its family therapy roots. “We work from the inside out,” explains Bob. “It’s important to start with the experience of the learner as the first teacher. It’s easy for us to forget the wisdom that we have, or forget to extract the lessons from experiences we have lived. We create learning environments that are opportunities for people to recall their own knowledge and reconnect with what they weren’t even aware that they knew, as well as to benefit from our experience and thinking.”

Bob has been instrumental in collaborating with PCP colleagues to form a training approach that embodies the same spirit and values as PCP’s work in the field by emphasizing curiosity, experiential learning, and an

elicitive orientation.

experiential learning, and an elicitive orientation. Continued on page 12 Q + A Belle ABAyA Earlier

Continued on page 12

Q + A

Belle ABAyA

orientation. Continued on page 12 Q + A Belle ABAyA Earlier this year, Philippines- based conflict

Earlier this year, Philippines- based conflict resolution organization, The Conflict Resolution Group Foundation (CoRe) started a campaign entitled Transformative Cells

(T-Cells), aimed at building face-to-face communication skills among young people. This spring, T-Cells trained 135 guidance counselors from colleges and universities in Metro Manila. The guidance counselors then trained 50 student facilitators in each of their 135 schools. Each student facilitator will invite six students to take part in a T-Cell—a small group that will come together for a facilitated conversation about an agreed upon topic.

Using this model, T-Cells has trained a total of 1,790 student facilitators and at the end of September, 7,247 students from different universities and colleges across Metro Manila and nearby provinces had participated in various T-Parties (events that hold multiple T-Cell dialogues simultaneously in one venue). Multiple schools in Manila have adopted T-Cells as part of their curriculum, the T-Cells Web site provides students with information and learning resources, and a T-Cellebrity Program allows students to vote via social media on T-Cells “ambassadors.” As these students reach out to students in other areas of the country—and the world—founder Belle Abaya expects T-Cells to multiply on a grand scale. Belle started T-Cells after retiring from her position as the Presidential Advisor on the Peace Process in the Philippines. PCP talks with her about what sparked the need for T-Cells and how it works.

Do you have a memory of something specific that sparked your personal initial interest in conflict resolution?

Last year, I was on vacation with two young women. Beforehand, I wondered what kind of conversation the three of us might have. But during our first dinner together, I noticed both of them actively texting. Then their cell phones buzzed. Suddenly I realized there were three simultaneous conversations happening at the time—and I was not in two of them.

Back in the room, when I tried asking a question, no one responded. When I looked over, both women were wearing earphones plugged into their laptops, oblivious of my presence.

At this moment, I realized technologies that were invented to increase connectivity are the same technologies that are eroding face-to face- communication skills. With young people inheriting an increasingly complicated world, I became worried about the impact of technologies that make it easy to “un-friend,” to bully, and to isolate oneself. I wanted to bring dialogue skills to our young people.

CoRe says its purpose is to celebrate human diversity. For you, how is this connected to conflict resolution work?

People are increasingly intolerant of differences. They spend an enormous amount of energy trying to persuade one another to take their side or point of view. They render a dialogue unsuccessful when they can’t get other people to agree with them. In conversations with others, they put more effort into demolishing the other’s argument, instead of understanding why people think differently. This kind of attitude is very dangerous and damaging and is the root of many conflicts. We at the CoRe Group believe that we will live in a much better world if people learn to appreciate why others think from particular perspectives, value the others’ voices, and empathize with others’ experiences, without necessarily agreeing.

What was the impetus for Transformative Cells (T-Cells)? What are your hopes for the project?

The impetus for T-Cells is the desire to equip our young people with the all-important communication skills they need to cope productively and constructively with their future. We hope to offer young people a model for a new way of speaking and relating to one another, as well as to other young people in the Philippines and around the world. We believe that when people change the way they speak

it can lead to greater openness and creativity around

addressing challenges.

the way they speak it can lead to greater openness and creativity around addressing challenges. Continued

Continued on page 6

Continued from previous page Q + A What are the key concepts that guide T-Cells’

Continued from previous page

Q + A

What are the key concepts that guide T-Cells’ work?

Our key concepts are speaking respectfully, listening for understanding, and generously multiplying advocates and users of the T-Cells. “Speaking respectfully” means giving space to others to speak from their own perspective without interruption or condemnation. “Listening for understanding” means listening with a genuine desire to explore the others’ perspectives. Authentic conversations will lead people to reflect on their own thinking and transform their perspectives to include that of others.

Continued on page 7

perspectives to include that of others. Continued on page 7 Why is it called T-Cells? The

Why is it called T-Cells?

The T stands for “transformative” because we hope that an authentic approach to communication will shift speaking and listening and create more effective conversations. We use the word “cell” because conversations happen in small groups, typically four to eight people. Also, in biology, T-cells multiply to overpower damaging cells. These are the very things we are trying to do—heal our eroding communication skills and multiply the mechanism in order to change the course of ineffective communication.

We want T-Cells to widen participants’ viewpoints and for the T-Cells practice to spread to as many people as possible.

Tell us about your connection with the Public Conversations Project.

The dialogue skills that the T-Cell espouses are founded on the principles crafted and promoted by the Public Conversations Project. This is why we invited PCP to help us train the first 60 guidance

counselors in the T-Cell program. Together, we married our ideas to create a dialogue model that took into consideration our young people’s particular needs, and our culture. What is special about the PCP approach is that it promotes authenticity, reduces

defensiveness, increases curiosity and genuine interest,

and boosts connectedness.

curiosity and genuine interest, and boosts connectedness. Continued on page 12 A Word From laura Chasin,

Continued on page 12

interest, and boosts connectedness. Continued on page 12 A Word From laura Chasin, Chair In September,

A Word From

laura Chasin, Chair

In September, I joined sixteen colleagues and friends of the Public Conversations Project to mark the tenth anniversary of September 11, 2001. We met at Conversation Place, PCP’s annex across Kondazian Street, to pause, reflect and share some of our thoughts and feelings about that historic, terrifying and tragic event and what has happened since.

terrifying and tragic event and what has happened since. In his opening comments, PCP Senior Vice

In his opening comments, PCP Senior Vice President Bob Stains referred to Viktor Frankl, a Holocaust concentration camp survivor and founder of existential therapy. Bob had recently spoken with a woman who led a therapy group for widows of men who were killed in the Twin Towers. She said that the widows found Frankl’s book, Man’s Search for Meaning (originally published as From Deathcamp to Existentialism), by far the most helpful resource for coping with the tragedy. His core message is that “Everything can be taken from a man but one thing; the last of the human freedoms—to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances.”

I had not thought of Viktor Frankl for at least thirty years, but was instantly reminded of his story of a dancer standing in line for the gas chamber who chose to die by leaping away from the line and being shot while dancing. This image haunted and inspired me for many years.

That Sunday night at Conversation Place, one participant mentioned the image of two people holding hands while jumping from one of the Twin Towers, a riveting contemporary example of the inalienable freedom at the heart of Frankl’s philosophy. Facing imminent death, two people chose to die connected to another human being.

If some human beings can exercise meaningful choice in such desperate moments then surely the rest of us can find a way to do so when confronted by ominous, slow-moving trends where great danger is foreseeable but not imminent. I believe that the increasing polarization of our “public square” is such a trend, one likely to undermine the foundations and viability of our democracy—unless a critical mass of us takes steps to turn the tide.

Since our anniversary gathering, I have been taking to heart Frankl’s central question, “What does the situation ask of me?” How can I respond to the worrying changes of the last decade in ways that honor my concerns, the inclinations of my wisest self and my core values? What attitude can I consciously develop that will increase my engagement rather than my withdrawal, my determination rather than my apathy? Unlike the people in the towers, I—and you—have time to entertain such questions and exercise our core human freedom to take steps to stop the erosion of

democratic institutions and practices while we can.

of democratic institutions and practices while we can. Cherry Muse, President Shortly before taking off on

Cherry Muse, President

Shortly before taking off on a road trip to Monticello this summer, I went to see a production of the musical 1776. I’m no purist, but I’m pretty sure that Thomas Jefferson, Ben Franklin and John Adams never celebrated the Declaration of Independence with a kick- line. And maybe Thomas Jefferson skipped out on the Continental Congress for a liaison with his pretty, young wife….maybe not. But the most dramatic scenes in the musical—the impassioned fights over slavery—were true to the history books, and so severe in their time that they threatened to destroy the colonial confederation before it declared itself a nation.

colonial confederation before it declared itself a nation. Visiting Monticello, I reflected on America’s “original

Visiting Monticello, I reflected on America’s “original sin” of slavery, which Jefferson and other authors of the Declaration of Independence compromised on in order to make it possible for all thirteen colonies to sign the document. I could not help but wonder: could this nation have come into existence without that compromise? Were there alternatives?

I toured Mulberry Row (the area that housed Jefferson’s own slaves), my head spinning with contradictory images. Jefferson was acutely aware that future generations would pay the price of the compromise on slavery. It was Jefferson who said, “I shall not live to see [disengagement from slavery] but those who come after us will be wiser than we are….To that advancement I look…to devise the means of effecting what is right.” He held slavery as a moral wrong, and yet he owned slaves. He loved liberty and denied it to millions.

As I struggled with the question of “when is compromise too costly?” I thought about the work of the Public Conversations Project. We never ask dialogue participants to compromise. Instead, we often ask “what is at the heart of the matter?” This question encourages people to look honestly into themselves. What if someone had asked Jefferson “What is at the heart of the matter?” What if he had asked that question of himself, of his colleagues in Philadelphia in 1776? We can’t rewrite history, but we can wonder. Could there have been another

outcome?

in Philadelphia in 1776? We can’t rewrite history, but we can wonder. Could there have been

8

Public Conversations’ new regular feature, Her/His Voice, will highlight an individual who—like us—is build- ing stronger communities through di- alogue. These are the ideas, thoughts and stories of people whose work we deeply appreciate, whose spirit we greatly admire, and whose presence as peers in our field is cherished.

Her Voice:

linda Stout

Linda Stout’s life began with poverty that hindered opportunity. Today, she runs Spirit in Action, a nonprofit organization that catalyzes broad-based movement building to support deep and lasting social change. Based in Belchertown, Massachusetts, Spirit in Action works nationally and regionally, providing training to and programs for diverse communities, grassroots groups and social justice organizations. With three national networks flourishing and a recently published book Collective Visioning, Linda serves as an inspiring example of the ways that a dialogic approach can be part of larger change. Here, she shares with us a bit of her story about building a world in which people live sustainably, power is shared collectively, and peace and justice flourish.

is shared collectively, and peace and justice flourish. What is your relation- ship to PCP? I

What is your relation- ship to PCP?

I first learned about PCP through Laura Chasin, who attended a Spirit in Action (SIA) women’s gathering where we were really struggling with some of the conversations we were having. She told me about PCP and I was immediately interested. I thought, “Wow. If they can get people to talk from opposite ends of the spectrum politically, maybe I can get people with different perspectives on the left side of the political spectrum to talk to each other!”

Since then, I’ve taken a couple of PCP’s workshops and used parts of the methodology in the work that I do with SIA.

Tell me more about Spirit in Action.

Spirit in Action was formed in reaction to a listening project we did with activists all over the country. For the project, we asked people from diverse backgrounds—across race, class, from small grassroots organizations to national think tanks, people who do work on every issue—one central question: “What is it going to take to create a transformative movement that can really change the world?”

There were four primary things that people said needed to be addressed:

1. The lack of vision we have on the left. We are really

good at talking about what we’re against, but not what we’re for.

2. We need to have a different way of talking about

race and class, racism and classism and related issues.

3. It’s hard to talk about having any faith-based or

spiritual identity, be it Christian or Pagan or atheist. All of us come into the work with our own closely- held values, but we often lose them when we come

into a diverse group, where people may have values different than our own.

4. The current way of doing action isn’t working.

SIA then started to look at how to find answers to

all of these things. We developed ways of collective visioning and healing polarization so that we can

actually work together.

healing polarization so that we can actually work together. Continued on page 9 How do you

Continued on page 9

How do you use dialogue in your work?

We approach each meeting with the question: “How do we begin to have a conversation that goes beyond our understanding of one way of doing things?”

We also use two parts of PCP’s dialogue model. First, pre-interviews have become a critically important piece of the work we do with networks. The information we gather helps us make the meeting agenda, bearing in mind the concerns or fears or excitement felt by individuals in the group. Then, the training is designed to fit participants’ needs. People are really prepared, and we know what to expect.

Second, we ask people to tell their personal stories around a particular question or issue. This builds a level of trust and connection that nothing else can.

What is it that drives your commitment to this work?

Having grown up in poverty, and having been denied the help and education that I really wanted because of poverty, I really wanted to change things for poor people in this country. I came to understand that making this kind of change meant looking at race, and across class.

How does dialogue play a role in your life? Is it a tool?

Oh yeah! I’ve used it in many ways. I have a lot of

friends who are very conservative. Being able to have

conversation around our differences has allowed me to understand community in a different way.

a

I

often use my Mormon friends as an example. I’m a

very progressive—even revolutionary—out lesbian. Through our friendship, their lives have been changed and so has mine. I’ve learned a lot from them, and a lot of them have shifted how they think about and understand things as well. I don’t think that would have ever happened if we hadn’t been able to have dialogue and talk together in a meaningful way.

I’m wondering if you can articulate for me one thing that you wish the world knew or saw—that it doesn’t seem to know or see.

Oh, yes. Two things.

Number one: Our society doesn’t teach us how to work together. And as a result, we haven’t been able to think about organizing in a real, powerful, collective way to make change in the world. The majority of people think individualistically when trying to change the world. I can make this one change or that one change. And the truth is, in the long term, they can’t—not alone.

Number two: We can collectively vision together, and we can have hope. I think there’s a lot of hopelessness in the world. I don’t believe people are apathetic. I think people believe they aren’t powerful. Without the ability to collectively work together on solving issues, we’re not ever able to get anywhere.

So what’s the antidote to this inability?

Being able to create collective understandings of each other, come together in a genuinely trusting and loving way, and work together with different strategies and different issues. I have seen this happen in my work over and over and over. We’ve built three national organizational networks now. There’s been a cultural shift in how people do this work. So much so, that people are asking if we can train them. In response, we’ve started something called Power Up Networks, which teaches people how to do work in collective visioning, dialogue, and storytelling.

So before we go, I want to get a sense of your view of PCP and the work we do. What do you see as the value of PCP to the world?

I think that PCP is doing amazing work—crossing fences to help there be more understanding among people. It’s critical work if we’re going to make any kind of change. We can’t separate ourselves by saying “we are right and you are wrong and therefore I am not part of this discussion.” I think a big piece of it is asking ourselves, “How do we talk to other people?”

am not part of this discussion.” I think a big piece of it is asking ourselves,

9

10

NEW STAFF

Stacyann Gabbidon

Communications Intern

10 NEW STAFF Stacyann Gabbidon Communications Intern Stacyann is currently a graduate student completing her dual

Stacyann is

currently a

graduate student

completing her

dual Master’s

degree in Sustainable International Development and Coexistence and Conflict at Brandeis University’s Heller School of Social Policy and Management. Stacyann is from Montego Bay, Jamaica and earned her degree in Media and Communications at the University of the West Indies, Mona.

Melissa Gang

Program Administrator, PCWest

Melissa has earned a Master’s in International Peace and ConflictIndies, Mona. Melissa Gang Program Administrator, PCWest Resolution from American University following three years as

Resolution from American University following three years as a Peace Corps Volunteer. Her experience includes creating a training program for traditional councils in Kumba, Cameroon, to improve the conflict resolution services as an alternative to the formal justice system; assisting Habitat for Humanity International with projects relating to housing and property rights; and co- facilitating a Justice and Security Dialogue workshop in Haiti.

Chloe Kanas

Social Media and Marketing Coordinator

Chloe is an alumna of Mount Holyoke College, where she studied feminism, genderin Haiti. Chloe Kanas Social Media and Marketing Coordinator justice and political theory. She developed her

justice and political theory. She developed her love for dialogue through her classroom experience, three years of participation in MHC’s Intergroup Dialogue program, and the conversations that blossomed from both. Equipped with a growing interest in media, Chloe is excited to advance PCP’s online engagement and community outreach initiatives.

Seth Karamage

Program Coordinator

Seth graduated with a Master’s degree in Coexistence and Conflict from theoutreach initiatives. Seth Karamage Program Coordinator Heller School of Social Policy and Management at Brandeis

Heller School of Social Policy and Management at Brandeis University and also a BA in economics with a major in development studies from National University of Rwanda. Seth has extensive experience in sustainable peacebuilding and development. His concentration has been on building a toolkit to transform Diaspora communities: from maintaining the entrenched beliefs and identities that cause them to support ongoing conflicts, to possessing the necessary skills to promote peace and development in both their home and host countries. Seth has been a member of the Partner for Allies for Humanity at IGL Tufts University and was Chief Coordinator for the Great Lakes Agriculture Promotion and Environmental Sustainability project in Rwanda.

John Sarrouf

Director, The Family Dinner Project

in Rwanda. John Sarrouf Director, The Family Dinner Project John was first exposed to the work

John was first exposed to the work of the Public Conversations

Project while studying in the masters program in dispute resolution at the University of Massachusetts in Boston. Since then John has facilitated dialogues on issues such as sustainability, gender, Israel-Palestine, religious pluralism, and technology and sexuality. He served as the Assistant Director of Difficult Dialogues at Clark University, where he taught dialogue to faculty and students. John teaches in the departments of Communication and Peace and Conflict Studies at Gordon College. John’s private consulting work has focused on mediation and transforming conflict in small work groups and non-profit boards. To all of his work he brings a background of 15 years in the theater as an actor, director and administrator.

in the theater as an actor, director and administrator. Continued from page 3 The Family Dinner

Continued from page 3

The Family Dinner Project

Continued from page 3 The Family Dinner Project From a grassroots approach that helps people to
From a grassroots approach that helps people to lead a Family Dinner Project in their
From a grassroots approach that helps people to
lead a Family Dinner Project in their community
to working with organizations, such as colleges,
churches, schools and family-centered nonprofits, the
team aims to create a model that can be
easily replicated.
For example, The Family Dinner Project team
worked with Southern Vermont College to create
the Campus Community Dinner Series, a program
that brings together students and community
residents for dinner and discussions, which are lead
by trained staff and faculty who serve as “dinner
conversationalists.”
While the project has evolved since Shelly’s first
brainstorm in 2009, the end goal hasn’t changed.
“As a society, we must grapple with big questions.
Our ability as a country to have a successful civil
discourse is dependent upon multiple points of view
and people’s voices being heard,” says London.
And conversation around the dinner table is one of
the first places our voices are heard, says Sarrouf.
“For kids, the family dinner table is the earliest social
classroom. It is there that you learn the lessons of
listening, asking curious questions, encouraging, and
being encouraged. It is there that the potential lies to
teach young people how to approach the world in a
dialogic way.”

“We want this to become a space for sharing. It’s about families exchanging ideas and learning from one another, not just about people taking on our approaches,” Sarrouf says.

“This project is all about families making changes that are important to them. Everything from our food to our family dynamics and the kind, frequency and quality of our conversation—all involve changing of long-standing habits,” points out London.

That’s why the project’s long-term vision is to build a movement that maintains long-standing behavioral change by creating and supporting communities and networks that believe in the power of family dinners.

“Being part of a community that, together, decides to improve family dinners is what makes change easier. Change happens and sticks in supportive groups that share goals and care about each other,” explains London. And while individual families reap clear benefits, from changing how they think about their identity to getting to know one another better, there is potential for the movement to impact our national dialogue.

to learn more about our presence and work on the West Coast. PCWest Director Meenakshi Chakraverti

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Dialogue: A Virtual Workshop is a series of 12 videos sharing the basics of the

The series talks about the nature of conflict and the power of dialogue to shift destructive patterns, while outlining the process of building a dialogue. Each video is accompanied by a set of summaries, exercises and discussion questions as well as links to Web pages, PDFs, citations for articles or books, and special video interviews with each of PCP’s five founders on an aspect of PCPs approach. Check it out at: http://www.publicconversations.org/

BOB STAINS: ASSOCIATES’ CORNER

BOB STAINS: ASSOCIATES’ CORNER Continued from page 4 PCP workshops also foster an

Continued from page 4

PCP workshops also foster an atmosphere in which enduring connections form, an element that Bob is particularly proud of. “People who attend our work- shops often leave with relationships that last for years to come.”

Having worked in very challenging circumstances— on the streets, in homeless shelters and as the train- ing director for the most over-populated and under- staffed mental hospital in the country, Bob has seen how learning environments can dramatically change people’s lives. “If we create the right environment, people can do more than just acquire skills,” reflects Bob. “They can re-claim their gifts and shift the ways they think, feel and relate to themselves and others.” A lot like dialogue.

and relate to themselves and others.” A lot like dialogue. u r i s h n

urish

n

u r i s h n A benefit for the Public Conversations Project

A benefit for the Public Conversations Project

April 28, 2012.

Twelve speakers. Twelve homes. Twelve fascinating topics. An exceptional opportunity to engage over dinner with a small group of guests—and one unique speaker—on a topic that intrigues you.

Our growing line-up includes some of Boston’s most prominent experts. Mark your calendar and stay tuned for more details!

experts. Mark your calendar and stay tuned for more details! Q + A Continued from page

Q + A

Continued from page 7

Continued from page 7

Based on what you’ve done so far, what have you seen that gives you hope that dialogue will be widely embraced by Filipinos?

The Philippines has a population of 92 million and 85 million active SIM cards. With 2 million text messages sent daily, we are the text-messaging capital of the world. We also have the highest level of internet usage.

While we recognize the ways in which we are connected by technology, we also comprehend how seriously disconnected we are in terms of effective human conversations and face-to-face communications. Thus, the promise of what T-Cells can bring is exciting, and feedback is strong. I have yet to see someone who joined T-Cells who did not appreciate what he/she learned and gained from his/ her experience.

yet to see someone who joined T-Cells who did not appreciate what he/she learned and gained

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