Sustained Dialogue

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Sustained Dialogue is defined as a 'changemaking process' which

  1. "Focuses on transforming relationships that cause problems, create conflict, and block change; and
  2. Emphasizes the importance of effective change over time" [1]

Problems and Purpose




Participant Recruitment and Selection


Deliberation, Decisions, and Public Interaction

Sustained Dialogue develops over a five-step process:

1. "The 'Who': Deciding to Engage - like the first step in any meaningful dialogue, those living with systemic civic challenges decide to improve community relations through dialogue. 

2. "The 'What': Mapping and Naming" - participants come together to map and name challenges to and inside their community. The initial interactions during this stage are generally unstructured; participants have not yet developed trust between one another so often take this time to 'vent' grievances. The stage is complete when the group agrees on what needs to be focused on. 

3. "The 'Why': Probing Problems and Relationships - this stage follows four steps thorugh which the specific systems and dynamics at the root of community challenges are probed and uncovered:

  1. "Define the most pressing problems
  2. Identify possible ways to change them
  3. Come to a sense of direction
  4. Weigh the consequences of moving in that direction against the consequences of doing nothing" [2]

4. "The 'How': Scenario building" - having identified the most pressing problems, participants envision a way to change and/or improve relationships and ongoing engagement. Five questions help guide the design process:

  1. "What resources do we have?
  2. What are the obstacles?
  3. What steps could overcome those obstacles?
  4. Who could take those steps?
  5. How can we sequence those steps so that they build on another to generate momentum behind the plan?" [3]

5. "The 'Now': Individual and Collective Action" - having constructed a theoretical solution, participants now make plans for concrete actions that "can be collective or individual, involve outsiders to the dialogue group, center on creating awareness, engage administrators or faculty, etc." [4]

Influence, Outcomes, and Effects


Analysis and Lessons Learned




[2] Ibid.

[3] Ibid.

[4] Ibid.

Secondary Sources

"Our Approach." The Sustained Dialogue Institute.

External Links



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