The best way to host a dialogue will depend upon your situation and the ultimate goal of the whole event. To hold a good discussion, your approach must be based on your goals, place, participants, and others.
Here are some hosting examples:
Scenario 1 — Mature Partnership Or Coalition
In this type of dialogue, people may be focusing on the quality of life and health issues in a community. It can also be used to get more participants and invite the media to notice their efforts on the issues.
Scenario 2 — Mobilizing Youth
The youth is a vital part of the community as they suffer from many negative issues or pressures in society. Mobilizing them to participate is essential for their awareness.
Scenario 3 — Faith Group
Whether people are from the church, mosque, or synagogue group, religious leaders may want to participate in a dialogue. They will attempt to speak about specific issues like increasing the number of people in their congregation, how to provide religious awareness to more people and other related activities.
Scenario 4 — Your Kitchen Table
Inviting neighbors would help create bridges. It will build trust and cooperation among one another as it will make people feel that they “belong.”
Scenario 5 — Community Organization
Organizations may want to talk during a scheduled meeting about possible opportunities that can spark positive changes in the community or other necessary matters like leadership and organization activities.
Scenario 6 — On Campus
In a university, the students, faculty, staff, and other residents might have something to say that can help in improving the community.
To make your dialogue work, you must prepare for it, as well. Usually, one organizes and completes the plan for dialogue in two to five weeks. One will need to identify what to develop, what needs focus, and how to go about it. The length of dialogue will also depend upon the number of people, problems, scope, and capacity, etc.
Preparing For Your Dialogue
Build a Dialogue Team to host the event. It’s a good idea to approach the dialogue as a team to create a sense of ownership and distribute the tasks like defining the goals.
Determine your own goals for the dialogue. People will have different purposes, but your community might have particular or specific ones that the people want to achieve. Gaining information is also necessary. They might either want to deepen previous works and lessons or address new issues.
Determine the group of participants. Whose idea is it that you want to hear? A more natural way is to find an existing group and partner with them so that you’ll have networks already. A new group can also be brought but remember that dialogue members can range from five to 500 depending on your goals.
Select and prepare your facilitator. To make the dialogue a success, there must be a facilitator who is experienced and can listen to others while at the same time encouraging people to talk. More importantly, they should be neutral.
Set a place, date, and time for your dialogue. Hold dialogues in convenient locations based on your participants. If your participants are the youth, it might be good to hold them in a club or restaurant. Don’t forget to notify them at least two weeks before the dialogue of all the details.
Create an inviting environment. Arrange the participants in a “U” formation to initiate interaction and conversation. Although not necessary, refreshments can help.
People flock to those who exude a committed and trustworthy aura. They will want to talk about the issues so don’t be too worried. It isn’t that difficult especially if you have constant contact or access to your participants. Make sure to call them or give a follow-up email and don’t fret too much if someone rejects you.
If you are targeting a certain number of people, recruit twice or thrice as many to be safe. If you’re planning on large group dialogue, it’s better to invite through fliers in public areas.
(A part two of this blog will come out shortly titled – Hosting A Dialogue: Part 2.)