Dialogue Lab is movement building. It’s about making ourselves -- the progressive movement -- unstoppable.
(It is not about political centrism, or hugging nazis.)
And we do it by building our capacity to be both fiercely honest and kind with each other, as we navigate the complexities that -- if ignored -- can stop us in our tracks.
Dialogue Lab is developing leaders.
Leadership development is a path to courage and strength in service of something greater. Once you stop trying to prove your worth, you free yourself into a commitment to service.
You find the strength to speak and listen to hard truths. To listen with an open heart for what the world asks of you, and answer it with wisdom and skill.
Dialogue is not just a thing that happens in certain kinds of meetings.
It’s a way of being that leaders step into, that is always learning, listening, and observing. It’s a perpetually unfolding process of seeking out a multiplicity of perspectives while staying open to the unknown. It’s walking right into the middle of uncertainty, and attuning to emerging possibilities.
When differences arise inside the culture of progressive organizations and communities, three things tend to happen:
1: We turn the tactics and attitudes of protest inward. We’ve learned the tools of resistance and self-defense, because we had to. And sometimes we use them on each other.
2: We go into denial. We avoid the hard conversations. We get passive-aggressive and defensive.
3: And then we get stuck.
I think of this as the "Culture of Stuckness."
And here we ask, “What would it take to build a Culture of Change?”
If you call yourself a progressive, then you know the stakes are high. So it’s no wonder progressive spaces are often emotionally charged, and full of strident opinions. In that environment, it often seems like it’d be easier to go it alone. But you can’t take the “social” out of social change. We will go further together.
When our movement is strong, we feel vibrant and connected -- to each other, and to our shared sense of purpose. But too often, differences in opinion, personality, or priorities fuel toxic cultures of mistrust, disrespect, and burn out. So how does it feel to be a part of your community? At Dialogue Lab, we hold this as a crucial metric on the health of any movement.
Dialogue is a creative force for change. Our raw materials are the people at our sides, the challenges we face, our strengths, courage, curiosity, and hope. From that, we build new possibilities.
The times we are in demand we come with fresh eyes. None of us have lived through a moment like this before. There are no experts in Today.
So we put aside our expertise, and become Executive Listeners and Chief Learning Officers. We are guided by our curiosity, our greater purpose, and our willingness to take smart risks.
We are absolutely up for this. In the words of poet Clarissa Pinkola Estes, “We were made for these times.”
This is not conflict resolution. It’s conflict transformation. I'm not interested in smoothing over differences for the sake of maintaining the status quo. I view conflict as an opportunity to transcend where we’ve been, so we get where we need to be.
After all, some differences can’t be resolved. Instead, they have to be leveraged, and mined for their potential.
Dialogue Lab is a product of dialogue. So is this manifesto. They will both continue to evolve over time.