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Dialogue Drivers

Courageous Conversations Toolkit

What is the Courageous Conversations Facilitator Toolkit?
The Courageous Conversations Facilitator Toolkit is a guide to help you lead difficult conversations in order to deepen understanding across difference. This guide provides tools, tips and materials to help you prepare, host and lead a dialogue based on any topic aimed at understanding difference and resolving conflict. Throughout the year we will provide some facilitator’s discussion guides on specific topics.

How can you use it?
This tool provides an overview of the “what and how” of conducting a dialogue session. Read through the guide in its entirety to deepen your skills and understanding and to prepare yourself for the role of facilitator. You can also use some of the templates and planning tools to organize your dialogue session.

The facilitator’s guide will help you:

  • Prepare for your role as facilitator
  • Articulate goals and outcomes for the conversation
  • Create a session agenda
  • Lead a successful conversation


What is a Dialogue Session?
A dialogue session provides a forum for individuals to express feelings, share personal stories and reflections, clarify viewpoints, and deepen understanding across difference. A dialogue session is about listening, understanding and finding common ground – not about debating or reaching consensus on one right answer. Dialogue invites participants to question and reevaluate their assumptions and to open their minds to the experiences and feelings of others.

Refer to our Dialogue Versus Debate Chart on page twelve (12) of this document. This chart provides a good visual explanation of the difference between dialogue and debate. This is something you can refer back to throughout your session.

What Makes a Dialogue Session Successful?

  • Create a Safe Space – Create a safe space where participants are comfortable sharing feelings and expressing their honest opinions.
  • Set Ground Rules – Establish rules of engagement at the start of the session and ensure all participants have agreed to the rules. See sample ground rules on page 10.
  • Take People Out of Their Comfort Zone – For real transformation to occur, participants must be willing to address difficult issues, open old, unhealed wounds, and be open to completely divergent values and opinions.
  • Clearly Define Goals – Think about what you want to accomplish in your session so you can effectively guide the conversation.
  • Move Participants Through the Dialogue Process – A successful dialogue typically moves through 3 main phases (1) Share/Listen; (2) Reflect; (3) Take Action. While it is important to spend adequate time on the sharing / listening phase, a successful session should ultimately lead toward personal transformation – changing both hearts and minds. The ultimate goal is to deepen understanding, find common ground, identify next steps and uncover potential solutions.

The Role of the Facilitator

  • Set the Ground Roles
  • Ensure Adherence to Ground Rules
  •  Create A Safe and Respectful Environment
  •  Manage Conflict
  • Ensure All Voices are Heard
  • Remain Neutral and Unbiased
  • Keep Discussion Moving Forward
  • Guide Discussion Toward Goals
  • Close the Dialogue and Summarize Outcomes
  • Utilize Facilitation Skills
    ➢ Facilitate, do not preach or try to convert
    ➢ Listen actively
    ➢ Accept and summarize expressed opinions
    ➢ Be comfortable with silence

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