1. Set up
between a minimum of seven and a maximum of 40 participants. More
people will mean a greater diversity of thought. Let them know ahead
of time, either through written materials or verbal explanations,
what the meeting will entail and that this will likely be only the
first of a number of such meetings. The meeting should last approximately
two hours. Find an experienced facilitator to assist the group or
at least to advise you on getting started. Have chairs arranged
in a circle to emphasize equality of all participants, as well as
openness to any and all contributions.
the ground rules
at the beginning of the meeting about what dialogue is and is not.
All individual titles, labels, hierarchy must be set-aside during
the gathering in order for dialogue to work effectively. Everyone
must feel free to speak her or his mind openly and honestly, and
likewise to be silent and reflective. Finally, remind everyone that
there is no pre-set agenda or objective other than the exploration
of the group awareness itself, in the anticipation of group coherence
the group choose a topic from a pre-determined list or open the
floor for a suggestion. Participants are asked to reflect on the
topic and begin commenting on it. If necessary, remind participants
to refrain from speaking directly to the one who proposed the topic
or who just offered an opinion; this is not a debate and no one
should feel he or she has to defend himself or herself.
A new topic
may be proposed at any time, but the group must agree that it is
ready to depart from the former topic.
4. Lead from
The task of
the facilitator is to witness and ensure the open flow of thought
and the development of the maximum opportunity for creativity. Use
meeting techniques such as eliciting participation from each person,
steering control and manipulation away from one or a few participants,
encouraging mutual respect, etc.
flows back and forth, the facilitator may want to offer observations
of the group thought process and consensus and offer guidance. For
example, if a discussion or debate is emerging, or if polarization
is causing rigid positions and cutting off effective exploration,
gently bring the group back to its shared sensibilities. Remind
participants they need to "dis-identify" with opinions, ideas, and
positions and to let go of ego attachments. The facilitator, or
anyone in the group, can encourage the participants to take risks,
to be spontaneous, and open, and to explore beyond what they might
be accustomed to in other types of groups or meetings.
5. Wrap it
It is up to
the facilitator who is observing the time and the energy of the
group to suggest an ending point. At this point the facilitator
may then summarize the ideas and topics explored during the meeting
or decide not to suggest any conclusions. Set a meeting time and
place for the next gathering and adjourn. Notes taken during the
meeting may be distributed but this is not a requirement.