Mapping Dialogue

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This research project was commissioned by the German Technical Co-operation (GTZ). It is part of their supporting the Nelson Mandela Foundation (NMF) to explore ways in which dialogue can be used to address social challenges in South Africa. During and since South Africa’s transition to democracy, Nelson Mandela has exhibited a formidable ability to forgive and suspend judgment, along with an awareness of the importance of listening to all sides. The research task was, in this context, to map out a variety of approaches, and to provide an overview, case examples and our own subjective commentary on each. Part I is called “Foundations”. It offers a brief “Dialogue Dictionary” to help distinguish the term dialogue from other concepts such as discussion, debate, and negotiation. It then goes deeper into what some of the generic foundations are for a good dialogue process. These are aspects that are more overarching and fundamental than the choice of method, and which can help guide that choice. Finally, Part I includes a brief introduction to the African tradition of conversation, honoring the deep roots of these processes on this continent. Part II is the actual toolkit. This is where you will find the in-depth explanation of 10 methods as well as shorter descriptions of an additional 14. Each of the 10 methods contains an overview, a review of applications, a case example, and our subjective commentary. The methods have simply been ordered alphabetically, as we found other types of categorisation too constraining. This means, of course, that the order in which you read them is completely up to you as well. Part III offers initial guidelines on how to assess which method to use in a given situation. We have outlined a series of different purposes a dialogue may have as well as a series of contextual factors, and we give some pointers as to which tools are most suited to different aims and situations. We also look at different types of facilitation, offering points to consider in choosing a facilitator for a dialogue. As you read, you may want to flick the pages back and forth between sections II and III.


Colleen Magner, Elaine McKay, Heiko Roehl, Marianne Knuth, Marianne Mille Bojer

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