Making Dialogue Effective: Dialogue Society Panel Discussion Series

Wed, 23 Mar 2011 18:45 in Discussion Forums

Where: Dialogue Society, London




A series of panel discussions examining the question of how to make intercultural dialogue work.

Those working with intercultural and interreligious dialogue at the community or professional level face a range of challenges regarding its effectiveness. We are asked, or ask ourselves, such questions as:

  • Does what we do make or contribute to a tangible difference to society in any way?
  • Does our work, whether directly or otherwise, reach beyond the sympathetic to those whose attitudes and behaviour are an actual threat to peace and social cohesion?
  • Are the relationships that our work initiates across cultural or religious boundaries of a meaningful and lasting kind?
  • Is our work part of something broader that is capable of effecting change on a grand scale?

This series is intended to occasion focused and constructive discussion of such questions among a range of people concerned with relationships between different cultural, religious or social groups, in their professional lives or at the community level.

Findings and conclusions will be published. It is hoped that the series will be replicated at three independent UK branches of the Dialogue Society, allowing us to draw on a wider range of perspectives in collating findings.


  • To encourage interprofessional dialogue, interaction and cooperation between people working on intercultural/ interreligious dialogue, peace and social cohesion.
  • To foster dialogue between people engaged with dialogue at the personal or community level, and those concerned with the same questions in a professional capacity.
  • To explore and clarify the questions of what effectiveness in dialogue is, and whether and how it can be measured.
  • To find a range of creative and practical answers to the question of how dialogue can be made effective by
    • identifying and promoting current best practice and
    • identifying and promoting promising future possibilities.
    • To share these answers among all participants of the series and more widely.

The Topics:

1. "Effectiveness" in Intercultural and Interfaith Dialogue: Can it be defined? How do we measure it?
Confirmed speakers:

  • Mehri Niknam, MA, MBE, Executive Director, the Joseph Interfaith Foundation.
  • Simon Keyes, Director of St Ethelburga's Centre for Reconciliation and Peace.
  • Dr Andrew Smith, Scripture Union.

2. Effectiveness at the grassroots: seeking the personal and the genuine
Confirmed speakers:

  • Imam Dr Abduljalil Sajid, Chairman, Muslim Council for Religious Harmony UK; Executive Member, World Congress of Faiths.
  • Samuel Klein, Co-Director, the Coexistence Trust
  • Sarah Perceval, Storyteller

3. Effectiveness in dialogue for conflict transformation
Confirmed speakers:

  • Dr Diana Francis, Conflict Transformation Facilitator, Trainer and Consultant.
  • Dr Marwan Darweish, Senior Lecturer at Coventry, Expert in Peace Processes and Conflict Transformation.

4. Skills in dialogue: cultivating effective listening and empathy.
Confirmed speakers:

  • Lisa Cumming, Programme for a Peaceful City, Bradford University Peace Studies Department
  • Justine Huxley, Interfaith Projects Coordinator, St Ethelburga’s Centre for Reconciliation and Peace
  • Jill Adam, Executive Director, Level Partnerships; previously Head of the School of Education and Professional Development at Leeds Metropolitan University.

5. Becoming a dialogue movement: what can dialogue learn from other movements?
Confirmed speakers:

  • Danny Chivers, Performance Poet Involved in the Environmental Movement
  • Dr Nicola Montagna, Middlesex University

6. Preaching to the unconverted: how can dialogue reach the disengaged, the prejudiced and the hostile?
Confirmed speakers:

  • Stephen Shashoua, Director, Three Faiths Forum
  • Alison Seabrooke, Community Development Foundation
  • Prof Ian Linden, Director of Faiths Act, Tony Blair Faith Foundation / Professor of Religious Studies, SOAS
  • Canon David Porter, Canon Director for Reconciliation Ministry at Coventry Cathedral

Guests are warmly invited to attend as many of the sessions as possible to contribute to an ongoing process of focused reflection over the course of the series.