Welcome to the Age of Difference. Individual and group differences matter more than ever. Groups that 20 years ago stood on the margins of society are today demanding respect and recognition. Where once we valued conformity, we now value authenticity. Whatever our backgrounds, we increasingly expect to be seen and valued in our uniqueness.
These are good things. But they are not easy things. Today we are seeing the results of systemic resistance to difference. And the capacity to build dialogue within the progressive movement is more important than ever. That’s the driving force behind Dialogue Lab.
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.
This is more than facilitating conversations. We aim to equip leaders, communities, and organizations with the capacity to lead and adapt to change, and bounce back stronger in the face of adversity. 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.