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.
When differences arise inside progressive organizations and communities, two 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 instead become passive-aggressive and defensive.
This the Culture of Protest & Denial. When it happens, we get stuck. That's why at Dialogue Lab, 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 in the room, the challenges we face, our strengths, courage, curiosity, and hope. From that, we build new possibilities.
Dialogue is not just an event. It’s a way of being 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. This is more than facilitating conversations. We are building cultures of dialogue.
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 put aside your pat answers and assured predictions of the future. You are now an explorer, guided by your curiosity, your greater purpose, and your willingness to take smart risks. You and your people 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. We’re not interested in smoothing over differences for the sake of maintaining the status quo. We view conflict as an opportunity to transcend where we’ve been, so we get where we need to be.
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.