Community Conversation (CC) is a diversity dialogue initiative that utilizes group activities as a catalyst for discussion between individuals from different backgrounds. The idea was born out of a need to engage students from all walks of life in an open, facilitated discussion about diversity, particularly at a time when the United States seems very divided. CCs are designed to broaden and challenge students’ understanding of issues related to race/ethnicity, diversity, inequality, and privilege. Research has shown that active engagement in even a single dialogue can spark opportunity for increased awareness and a substantial impact for change (Bowman, Denson, & Park, 2016). Ideally, CCs will plant seeds that flourish beyond the dialogue and sow roots that increase cultural awareness and empathy towards others.
A Community Conversation Group:
is a designated space where a small group of students (6 to 8) are invited to engage in an explores their beliefs, attitudes, and experiences with topics of diversity (e.g., living in the U.S. as a queer woman of color);
uses collaboratively established group expectations to set the tone for a respectful, productive discussion;
is rooted in dialogue and deliberation, not debate;
does not require consensus but instead strives to increase awareness of differing views and perspectives;
is a 2-hour, one-time commitment for each participant;
is led by two trained facilitators who are there to promote an open and respectful atmosphere for all;
WHAT PEOPLE SAY
The most valuable aspect of today for me was that I felt like I had a space where I could talk about my own experiences as well as controversial topics without fear of judgment.
I believe talking about privilege was the most valuable. I also thought talking about biases was helpful and informing.
I thought it was important that everyone was able to discuss their opinions. It was an important conversation that was had, and that needs to be had.”
Community Conversation has been empirically tested and continues to show significantly positive results. Students who participated in the groups over the course of three semesters reported feeling more skilled to engage in conversations about marginalized groups and social inequalities. They also reported gaining personal and social awareness about power and privilege. There was also a significant difference in students' report of empathic awareness pre and post participation in a CC group.