This conference centred around the skills of listening and dialogue. Speakers and participants discussed and reflected on the impacts that deep listening could have on our everyday life experiences. The three-day experiential journey was designed to equip participants with a powerful tool for effective dialogue.
More than 180 active and aspiring changemakers from all over the world and from all ages joined the online event. Despite the event being online, the conference team were able to successfully create a safe space to listen and discuss – there were plenty of opportunities for participants to get to know each other, reflect on their experiences and share their ideas and opinions.
‘Dialogue is a process of thinking about differences,’ said speaker Simon Keyes, Professor of Reconciliation and Peacebuilding at the University of Winchester. ‘The challenge comes from the fact that we are born in different places; it gives us misperceptions of each other.’ Mohammed Abu-Nimer, professor at the School of International Service of the American University, and senior advisor at KAICIID.
Effective dialogue enables us to understand how our opinions are shaped by our environment, it can build trust and strengthen relationships. The process is challenging as it requires us to suspend our judgments, get honest with ourselves and free ourselves from the need to agree or make decisions. Dr Iryna Brunova-Kalisetska, researcher, trainer and dialogue facilitator, drew attention to the fact that dialogue takes time. Talking about the #BlackLivesMatter context, Matthew Freeman, facilitator and trainer, shared, ‘Often people think that we don’t need to talk, that we need action, but I think that this is a false dichotomy’. Dialogue is a crucial step in taking action, as it can help us to get on the same page.
Assigned into breakout rooms participants were also able to discuss ‘privilege’ and ‘discrimination’. The facilitators guided participants to listen without judgement and reflect on their personal experiences which allowed for authentic expression. ‘Recognizing my privilege has encouraged me to learn more about other peoples’ experiences of oppression and discrimination,’ stated a participant. Facilitators were there to help with the flows of conversation and ensuring that there was opportunity for everyone to share. Several Creators of Peace facilitators who took part valued helping to guide those spaces and particularly enjoyed working with facilitators from other collaborators.
On the last day, two peacemakers shared the impact that listening and dialogue had had on their own lives. Angela Starovoytova, a trainer in effective communication from the Ukraine, explained how she started her career wanting to ‘share her wisdom with the world’ and for others to adopt her values. She soon realised that others are entitled to their own opinions, even if she disagrees with them. With opposing positions regarding Russia’s annexation of Crimea, she decided that her relationship with her father meant more to her than being right and chose the path of dialogue and reuniting the family. Peace maker Janine Farah, who is doing a Masters in Peace and Conflict Studies in Australia, told of the courage it had taken for her to enable someone who had suffered deeply to engage in dialogue with a person from the same community as the perpetrators.
Creators of Peace and T4C have collaborated for the last 4 years and we continue to value the cross pollination of ideas, the sharing of resources in supporting conferences and working alongside Initiatives of Change Switzerland. We believe that collaborations play a crucial role in how we maintain and strengthen our resilience as Creators of Peace and thrive in the years to come.
Creators of Peace give a special thanks to Diana Damsa and Diana Topan from Romania in contributing this article.
Collage of words from participants during the Tools for Changemakers online conference expressing their feelings after experiencing this dialogue.