Toolkit: Facilitated Dialogue and Controversial Issues

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Understanding multiple points of view and perspectives about climate can help make you credible to your audience, as well as, open to their concerns and questions. These steps will prepare you to avoid difficulties, while still managing passionate opinions and discussions. With practice, a thoughtful interpreter can almost always preempt conflict and turn controversy into an opportunity for connection for the visitors.

Controversy can occur any time and in many settings where climate change is involved. It often arises from audiences feeling threatened that their perspectives aren/t understood, or if they’re feeling overwhelmed or outnumbered. Acknowledging that there are different perspectives is a gesture of respect and inclusion that almost always diffuses conflict. Here are some tangible tools to assist you in being prepared for any circumstance.

Facilitated Dialogue
“Facilitated Dialogue” is a form of interpretive facilitation that uses a strategically designed set of questions – an “arc of dialogue” -- to guide participants through a structured, meaningful, audience-centered conversation about a challenging or controversial topic. This web-based site has tools and practice guides to help you design and become proficient in connecting visitors with their own ideas and encourage action.
Training Course: Interpreting Critical Issues Using Civic Engagement & Facilitated Dialogue Techniques
Interpreting critical issues with 21st century audiences requries a fundamental change in approach, using engagement strategies that involve visitors as co-creators of their interpretive experiences – interpreting WITH visitors, not just FOR them. This course focuses on the front-line interpreter’s role as a facilitator of dialogue and discussion, and a range of ways to incorporate these techniques into new and existing park programming. By thoughtfully facilitating dialogue around issues critical to the National Park Service and the public, interpreters learn to be catalysts to engage citizenry in new and exciting ways. You can find this course on DOILearn by searching for "facilitated dialogue."

NPS Handouts and Handbooks

Interpretive Solutions: Harnessing the Power of Interpretation to Help Resolve Critical Resource Issues
A report from the NPS Natural Resource Program Center specifically defining resource issue interpretation. In essence, it proposes a customized approach to communicating resource issues in a manner that achieves positive outcomes. The four steps include identifying the issue, determining the most appropriate audience to target, articulating the message to be conveyed, and applying the most appropriate communications approach to deliver it.

Embrace Controversy -- Avoid Conflict [PDF]
This is a document that articulates the professional standards developed by the NPS Interpretive Development Program for dealing with controversy. It will assist communicators in preparing specific strategies for addressing controversial topics. This guide will help them recognize and understand when a situation comes up, and also, provide specific tools for respectfully discuss the issue effectively.

Last updated: August 12, 2019


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