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Civil Dialogue™ at ASU

The term “Civil Dialogue,” as used by colleagues at Arizona State University, refers to a structured format for public dialogue. On their website, at www.civil-dialogue.com, they describe their work as “Using structured, public dialogue to build a bridge across the chasm of polarized viewpoints on hot topics, and to restore civility in public discourse.” The format was created at the Hugh Downs School of Human Communication at Arizona State University and continues to be developed by John Genette, Jennifer Linde, Clark Olson, and other scholars.

Civil Dialogue™ (CD) – aka Hot Topics, Cool Heads™ – is a structured format for public dialogue that provides a tool to build bridges across the chasm of public viewpoints. CD can be used in multiple contexts to help people communicate in civil and productive ways, especially when they face “hot topics” and need to employ “cool heads.” In a Civil Dialogue session, volunteer participants consider a provocative statement and have the opportunity to embody a position on the statement ranging from “agree strongly” to “disagree strongly.” Participants are asked to follow guidelines for civility that are explained by the facilitator. The dialogue is then extended to the broader audience who are encouraged to respond with their own opinions and questions.

See their 11-page “how to” paper, which provides practitioners with a step-by-step description of a Civil Dialogue event. It includes a description of the CD format, suggestions for planning a CD event, an explanation of a CD round/session, and tips for facilitating. Also see the 2-page sample Civil Dialogue program.

Facilitator Biographies…

John Genette, M.A., developed the concept of Civil Dialogue as a graduate student in performance and rhetoric in the Hugh Downs School of Human Communication at Arizona State University. He has facilitated Civil Dialogue events on political and free speech issues in numerous venues since 2004. John is president of Black Mountain Communications.

Jennifer Linde, M.A, is a lecturer in the Hugh Downs School of Human Communication and the artistic director for The Empty Space at Arizona State University. She has engaged Civil Dialogue as a pedagogical tool in performance studies classes and facilitated Civil Dialogue events in public and educational contexts since 2004.

Clark Olson, Ph.D., is a Professor in the Hugh Downs School of Communication at Arizona State University. He co-taught a graduate methods module on facilitating Civil Dialogue with Linde and Genette in fall, 2010. In addition to facilitating Civil Dialogue events in public venues, he has introduced Civil Dialogue as an alternative to traditional debate in his argumentation classes at ASU.

A couple of past events at ASU, to get a flavor of what they do…

Civil Dialogue at ASU “First Wednesdays” download flyer
The Hugh Downs School of Human Communication at Arizona State University presents Civil Dialogue™ on the first Wednesday of each month, February through May, 2012. The events take place March 7, April 4, and May 2, 2012, at 7:00 p.m. at the Empty Space, located in the ASU Performing Arts & Media Building (APMA), 970 E. University Dr., NE corner of University and Rural. Admission is free and open to the public. Reservations are not required. For directions to the ASU Performing and Media Arts building (APMA) use the online Google map http://www.asu.edu/map/interactive/?campus=tempe&building=APMA

Accessing Civility Forum Feb 3 – 4, 2012
Presenters from across the country helped to make Accessing Civility: Arizona Forum on Civil Communication a great success. Co-sponsored by the National Communication Association, the Forum brought together civic leaders, communication scholars, and community members who work to promote civility as the essential first step in constructive public dialogue. The Forum, held at Arizona State University, concluded with a special event, Veteran – Civilian Dialogue™, presented by Intersections International.

Resource Link: www.civil-dialogue.com

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