The Dialogue Studies MA launched by the Dialogue Society in partnership with Keele University in 2011 includes a 10-week work placement at the Dialogue Society in London.
The work placement is intended to equip students with practical skills to engage in and lead intercultural dialogue. It also offers students an opportunity to further examine different theories of and approaches to dialogue, and to develop their understanding of the UK context for dialogue by exploring the cultural, religious and political life of London. The placement lasts 10 weeks from the end of January to the beginning of April each year. During the placement students will be involved in planning, organising and evaluating several community projects as well as supporting the ongoing projects of the Dialogue Society, participating in training and visiting external organisations and places of interest.
The five elements of the placement are outlined below.
Aims and Objectives
- To equip students with practical skills to engage in and lead intercultural dialogue
- To provide experience of working in the not-for-profit sector
- To allow students to examine different theories of dialogue, inspiration for dialogue and practical approaches to dialogue
- To allow students to explore a multicultural city and to reflect on the role of dialogue in this context
- To give students an opportunity to explore the approaches of policy makers and other NGO’s to intercultural relations through visits to charities and government departments
Dialogue School (10 weeks)
Students will attend the Dialogue School which will be delivered by different tutors during their placement. The broad aims of the school are:
- to stimulate interest in different practical and theoretical approaches to intercultural dialogue
- to equip participants with key dialogue and interpersonal skills such as public speaking and effective communication, listening and empathy, critical thinking and analysis, leadership and project management and effective networking and self-confidence skills.
Sessions will fall into two categories:
- Dialogue: Theories, Principles and Approaches. These sessions will explore the work of influential dialogue theorists such as David Bohm and Daniel Yankelovich, examine religious inspirations for dialogue and engage with selected practical approaches. Invited speakers and Dialogue Society staff will share insights drawn from academic study, specialised dialogue practice and the engagement of faith communities in interfaith/intercultural dialogue.
- Skill-Based Training
– Project management
– Dialogue facilitation skills
– Public speaking
– Effective networking
– Engaging with the media
Attending Networking Events (once a week)
Students will be expected to attend one external event per week organised by other NGOs and stakeholders, with the aim of developing and improving their networking skills. Students will be accompanied by Dialogue Society staff at these events.
Students may also participate in evening seminars/training sessions organised by the Dialogue Society once a week should they find these relevant to their studies.
London Trips (once a week)
Visits will be arranged to relevant public and private institutions and civil society organisations. The London Trip days will also include exploration of the history, culture and diverse communities of the UK’s capital. Students will be accompanied by Dialogue Society staff during these visits.
The main activity of students in supporting the Dialogue Society’s work will be in assisting two cultural community centres to increase their engagement in intercultural dialogue. Community centres focused on a particular cultural/religious group are very well placed to help the community they serve to reach out to others in a positive manner. Working with carefully selected community centres should allow students to make a real, lasting contribution to intercultural dialogue in the localities of those centres, and to better understand the role and interconnection of different stakeholders, charities and community groups in a London borough.
With regular support and advice from Dialogue Society staff, and in collaboration with designated members of staff at the community centres, MA students will be exploring the possibilities for dialogue suggested in the Dialogue Society’s Community Centres Branching Out Community Dialogue Manual.
Students will initially explore various possibilities with staff at their allocated community centre and a Dialogue Society director. In consultation with all concerned they will formulate a realistic plan to help the Centre to ‘branch out.’ Their precise activities will be dictated partially by the particular circumstances and needs of the centre, but they would probably be able to achieve the following (or possibly more) within the time available on the placement:
- Organise and run at least one one-off dialogue event on a small scale (such as a public talk or Community Engagement Dinner).
- Research, plan and perhaps initiate a simple, ongoing dialogue initiative (such as a regular soup day or coffee morning).
- Research possible ways of adding value to the centre by offering new services through partnerships with other charities, community groups, stakeholders or relevant professionals and suggest concrete possibilities to Centre staff. If appropriate they may help to plan or even set up a new service.
The students will work in two teams, and for every initiative they undertake they will elect a team leader to manage the project. The process should build interpersonal skills, teamwork, leadership skills, organisational skills and networking skills.
Any spare time within the students’ allotted working hours will be spent supporting ongoing projects and events at the Dialogue Society office.
Students will be allowed sufficient time to complete and deliver their portfolios on time during the placement period. The portfolio will contain three elements:
- The student’s written plans and records from their practical work with the Dialogue Society
- A 1500-2000 word reflective diary
- A 3000 word reflective essay on a topic arising from experience on the placement.