On Monday, October 15, I flew to London Gatwick in 45 minutes and then after a 20-minute taxi ride to Roffey Park Institute, Horsham, West Sussex for the first conference of the academy for professional dialogue. The conference was an international meeting of dialogue practitioners from all over the world who want to share their work and experiences to inform and inspire others. The general aim of the academy is to develop a deeper understanding of the professional practice of dialogue to transform fragmented situations into aligned
processes of constructive change. Before the conference all members received a lot of material to read because these documents would be discussed during the different sessions. To give an idea of the depth of the documents, I only share the titles.
Jonathan Drury - Autism Dialogue
Mirja Hamalainen and Eeva Kallio - Dialogue and Teaching English in Finnish Higher Education
Peter Hill - Indigenous Affairs, Border Services and the Path of Dialogue in Canada
Ove Jakobsen and Vivi Storsletten - Dialogue as Dynamic Energy in Living Communities
Francis Briers - An Entry-Level Practice for New Professional Dialogue Practitioners
Amanda Ridings, Lorna Jackson and Sharon Millar -Moving Toward Artistry Recognising Factors that
Robert Sarly - Dialogue Is a Spiritual Practice
Mark Seneschall - The Legacy and Potential of Dialogue in the Criminal Justice System
Beth K. Herman - Dialogue and the Communities of Practice in American Graduate Medical Education
Beth Macy PhD - Dialogue as a Whole-System Healthcare Intervention
James M. Herman, Alan Adelman and John Neely - Teaching and Using Dialogue in an American Academic Health Center
Trine-Line Biong and Christian Valentiner - Fluxen Prison Dialogue in Norway
Harold Clarke and Susan Williams - Dialogue and a Healing Environment in the Virginia Department of Corrections
Jane Ball - Dialogue and the Offender Resettlement Journey
Thomas Köttner - Conversations at the Mall in Buenos Aires
Mechtild Beucke-Galm - Dialogue as the Heart of Strategic Change
Peter Garrett - Fragmentation, Power and Coherence in the Age of Organisations
Per Hilding - Dialogue as Working Model in Degerfors Municipality
Claudia Apel - Dialogue, Politics and the Essential Work of Government - The Migration Laboratory and the Search for Solutions to Global Challenges
Lars-Ake Almqvist - Economics and Time Management as a Vehicle for Dialogue - The Alamanco Story
A good amount of material to read and think about. We were received in the main hall and explained how the different dialogues would be conducted. You got the opportunity to choose a document from a smaller group (the home group), after which
you came together in groups in a smaller round space. Here, after a short introduction by the writer of the piece, they thought about and discussed what everyone's ideas were about the content. After this meeting the home groups came together again and experiences from the different participators were shared. This ritual was repeated a few times a day and the evenings were filled with even more beautiful encounters, introductions and conversations.
First of all, I want the people who took the initiative and invested so much time, energy and money to make this meeting possible. Some of you may know how many times I have tried to set up a Dutch already an international network of dialogue people. I am therefore very pleased that this has been achieved in a different way. What immediately struck me at the first
session was that my experience of a dialogue was much slower than we experienced during the sessions. Also not strange because we just knew each other and there was so much to share. The sessions lasted one and a half hours and this turned out to be reasonably short to give these subjects enough attention. These were nice conversations that yielded interesting insights but, in my opinion, things went very fast. My best
moments were the meetings between the sessions at and during lunch and dinner, not to mention the evening at the bar.
Because I often spoke to the same people there, I got to know them better and the conversations also became more beautiful and deeper. I'm thinking of Eric Lynn (Germany), Geir Harald Hagberg (Norway), Juliane Tissen (Netherlands), Liv Ronglan (Norway), Olga Plokhooij (Netherlands), Pierre Goirand (France), Renate van der Veen (Netherlands), Sabine Helene Kresa (Austria), Thomas Kottner (Argentina), Sonia Ortiz Guarch (Spain) and last but not least Eddy, the Irishman. Of course I have spoken to many people more.
A second nice experience was that the Dutch participants, some of whom knew each other only by name, agreed that we would benefit greatly if we were more connected to each other. Looking for each other, sharing experiences and growing together in the development of dialogue. Thirdly, I was strongly confirmed for myself that, as I now work and train with dialogue, the good thing is for me. During the conference you heard and saw that there are variants of dialogue. For example, there was a strong tendency towards the strategic dialogue, which is more targeted and controlled and less time and space for a delaying and deeper dialogue. I also noticed a lot of impatience among the participants when there were questions that called for tensions. Whether the academy should be called an academy, whether or not an
accreditation should come and what it should look like, whether during the conference not too much was sent or what qualities someone must meet in order to become a member of the Academy. All questions that are definitely worth investigating, but you will not get answered quickly. In the hectic that arose I was surprised by how some reacted and got excited. Something that I do not expect from someone who works seriously and professionally with dialogue. I was greatly impressed during the Per Hilding - Dialogue as Working Model session in Degerfors Municipality - about the care of his preparation and the care he put in a community dialogue. During the session of Mechtild Beucke-Galm - Dialogue as the Heart of Strategic Change (which was given by Peter because Mechtild's disease), I learned that during strategic dialogues within the organization you can not only work top-down or bottom-up but also horizontally, take into account the available power structures within the organization.
Finally, I became wildly enthusiastic when I heard what Heike de Boer (Germany) is doing (professor in teacher training). One of her research areas is to give meaning to children and children and teachers, and she is interested in how it is possible. to professionalize teachers for a dialogue at school. In her courses students develop ideas for philosophical dials for children and they get the chance to practice at school. In this research-based learning process they try to use the rules of the dialogue.
My drive is to eventually give the dialogue a structural place in secondary education in the Netherlands and I see a nice email exchange with Heike in the future.
A short impression, but I'm sure that there is much more to report in the short term. Greeting, Joop from Holland