Convening & Dialogues
The Center uses innovative approaches to convening and community dialogue to create the conditions for personal and collective transformation through Gracious Space. We developed Gracious Space as a way to foster authentic dialogue and facilitate develop of lasting relationships to break down barriers that have traditionally kept people from working together. We have designed and facilitated hundreds of gatherings across the country.
- Confluences. A confluence occurs when two streams join to form a larger river. A confluence also occurs when people come together to share ideas. We help people and groups address complex social issues such as poverty, racial and educational equity, and sustainability by creating a setting and a structured format for bridging boundaries. For three days, the Confluence brings together approximately 60 people from multiple sectors in a community for an in-depth process that uses dialogue, integral and systems-level thinking, and collaborative action to help people speed the success of their work for social and cultural change. Each Confluence asks a compelling question that organizes the learning of the gathering (see description of Confluences). Participants cultivate relationships, open up to new thinking about issues, and create ways to collaborate for their communities. See The Confluence Story Book for stories of personal transformation and impact from the Confluence gatherings hosted in the Puget Sound region of Washington State.
- Kellogg Leadership for Community Change gatherings. We formed a national learning community to activate knowledge sharing among communities in eleven states. Over the course of eight years, we hosted more than 30 peer-learning gatherings for 30 to 200 people to cultivate their local collective leadership and work toward community change. All of the communities were low-income and had significant legacies of inequities and marginalization. They represented a broad cross section of the country including: Mexican-American, African-American, Native American, Asian-American, White, as well as immigrant, urban and rural communities. We created forums to share actions, practices, and ideas in environments that respect and value local wisdom. From Lummi Nation lands in Washington State, to immigrant communities in Boston, to the borderlands of south Texas, and coal mining communities of Appalachia, each setting provided a powerful context for planning work to make our communities more just. See footage from the KLCC National Gathering at Stone Mountain, GA.
- Community Learning Exchanges. We envision a world in which community challenges are addressed, not by individuals, but by groups of local residents working together for sustainable change in 21st century settings. Unlike conventional learning institutions, the CLE views communities and people as the new instructors and texts for learning. The CLE encourages community change agents to share actions, practices, ideas and outcomes with one another in environments that respect and value local wisdom. We utilize the local culture and history to provide context for the dialogues. Participants tell stories, analyze stories and make new, collective stories for their communities. They are encouraged to attend with at least one other member of their community, since collaboration is a fundamental part of the CLE experience. See descriptions of past learning exchanges.
- Montana dialogues – Can We Talk? Partnering with the Montana Humanities Association in a two-year campaign, the Center taught citizens how to use Gracious Space when gathering to discuss important civic issues such as inviting a coal-burning power plant to town while caring about quality of life. We also trained local facilitators how to host hundreds of hours of dialogues utilizing Gracious Space approaches to support more positive discourse.
- Tacoma dialogues – Youth Against Violence. The Center along with our partners, The Berkana Institute and the Greater Tacoma Community Foundation, hosted two years of dialogues aimed at creating community understanding of the issue of youth violence by building relationships, and mobilizing community action. The first year focused on bringing together youth and adults from all parts of the community. Year Two dialogues took place in the schools to reach a greater number of youth, particularly those who would not normally participate in community action. Hundreds of youth and adults committed to working together to create a community free of violence involving youth.