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Disaporas in Dialogue (Featured D&D Story)

Today we’d like to feature another great example of dialogue and deliberation in action, the Diasporas in Dialogue project. This mini case study was submitted by Dr. Barbara Tint via NCDD’s new Dialogue Storytelling Tool, which we recently launched to collect stories from our members about their work.

We know that there are plenty of other stories from our NCDD members out there that can teach key insights about working in dialogue, deliberation, and engagement. We want to hear them! Please add YOUR dialogue story today, and let us learn from you!

D&D stories logoTitle of Project:

Diasporas in Dialogue


This project consisted of four years of work conducting assessment, dialogue groups, dialogue training, and community reconciliation capacity-building efforts in multiple African diaspora communities in Portland, Oregon, USA. Predicated on the belief that historical conflicts from home regions were travelling with migrant populations and being left unattended in the diaspora, we saw the need and the opportunity to provide a safe forum for community members to come together to address their fractured past, their difficult present, and their uncertain future.

The African Diaspora Dialogue Project (ADDP), generously supported by the Andrus Family Fund, was a collaboration between the Conflict Resolution Graduate Program at Portland State University and the Immigrant and Refugee Community Organization, serving Oregon and Washington.

The outcomes of the project included transformed communities, healed relationships, new joint ventures and coalitions among community members, newly trained in-community dialogue facilitators and a book about the work.

Which dialogue and deliberation approaches did you use or borrow heavily from?

  • Appreciative Inquiry
  • Public Conversations Project dialogue
  • Sustained Dialogue
  • Technology of Participation approaches
  • Intergroup Dialogue
  • Restorative Justice approaches

What was your role in the project?

Founder and Director of the Project. Dialogue facilitator. Author of the book.

What issues did the project primarily address?

  • Partisan divide
  • Immigration
  • Youth issues

Lessons Learned

  • Dialogue was successful and transformative.
  • Participants were yearning for new skills and knowledge around these issues and often wanted teaching along with dialogue.
  • Recruitment took much longer than expected and was initially challenging due to suspicions and complicated identity affiliations.
  • We needed deeper understanding of community needs and desires. Some of our initial thinking had been challenged by what we learned in dialogue.
  • Organization and logistics were extremely difficult.
  • Everything took much more time than we expected.
  • We needed more time for planning and reflection.
  • As groups had been conducted in English, our ability to involve certain community members was limited.
  • Status differences in dialogue groups (age, gender, community role) could be both an asset and a challenge.
  • Community members felt empowered and engaged through this process, and many emerged as leaders for reconciliation.
  • Working with youth was an important and powerful dimension of reconciliation within the diaspora.
  • The elders in the communities were invaluable in contributing to the success of the project.
  • Dialogue facilitation was a deeper skill than we could effectively train for in the time we had allowed.
  • Other community and refugee groups from different regions were also interested in participating in dialogue.
  • Ripeness and readiness had a great deal to do with who engaged and benefited from the process.

Where to learn more about the project:

For more information about the Diasporas in Dialogue project and book, please see www.pdx.edu/research/profile/dialogues-deep-change and www.pdx.edu/diasporas-in-dialogue/

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Roshan Bliss
An inclusiveness trainer and group process facilitator, Roshan Bliss serves as NCDD's Youth Engagement Coordinator and Blog Curator. Combining his belief that decisions are better when everyone is involved with his passion for empowering young people, his work focuses on increasing the involvement of youth and students in public conversations.

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