Doing Dialogue

EP welcomes Paul Waite from Australia!


Paul Waite
March 6, 2017

Essential Partners has a new face in the office: my name is Paul Waite and I’m from Australia – Melbourne, to be more specific. An Endeavour Fellowship grant is enabling me to spend time with Essential Partners to learn more about their approach to facilitating conversations about contentious issues. Back home, my work with the government focuses on social cohesion and community resilience. My plan is to learn as much as I can about the Essential Partners’ approach to facilitating dialogue, as well to explore ways to build a critical mass of trained dialogue facilitators back in my region of Australia.

Whilst 10,000 miles apart, Melbourne and Boston are both members of the Rockefeller Foundation’s global 100 Resilient Cities initiative. The program aims to systematically build resilience so that individuals, communities and businesses can survive, adapt and grow no matter what kind of chronic stresses and acute shocks are experienced – be it an economic crisis, a natural disaster, or an outbreak of violence. A resilient system is a connected system with access to a broad range of resources that can be combined in multiple ways.

For those of you who haven’t been “down under,” Melbourne is located in the southern state of Victoria. Victoria is an immensely diverse place with a population just shy of 6 million (roughly equivalent to Massachusetts), and about the same physical size Michigan. Almost half the population were born overseas or have a parent who was born overseas. Victorians speak over 200 languages, with 23% speaking a language other than English at home. We follow some 135 different faiths.

We are lucky to enjoy a relatively high level of social cohesion in Victoria. Like the U.S, however, Victoria is experiencing increased community polarization, and our inability to bridge these lines of fracture makes us less resilient.

Dialogue helps to build resilience, which is why I’m here to learn more about Essential Partners’ model.

The relationships, trust and understanding which emerges through the process of dialogue can help to reduce the level of conflict and risk of violence. Furthermore, it can enable us to see each other more fully as the complex creatures we are, and in doing so increase mutual respect, reduce fear, and engender compassion. Perhaps it could even lead to a willingness to provide a helping hand in times of need, or a preparedness to work together on other matters of shared concern.

I feel immensely privileged to be given this opportunity, and am indebted to both Essential Partners and to the Endeavour Fellowship Program for making it possible. I look forward to sharing my learning and insights with you.