Why “Diversity and Dialogue”

Diversity as a natural phenomenon is considered to be worth preserving, but what about human diversity? Cultural diversity may be appreciated in principle, but the closer it comes to everyday life, the more friction and conflict it causes. In practice difference has always been a problem for human communities. Our fundamental differences need no extra reinforcement. We can live together as different people if we can see what we have in common and allow it to bring us together. We need to learn how to re-evaluate our differences and recognise afresh how valuable they can be.

We need fresh insight to untie the knots we repeatedly tie which generate blocked mental attitudes and even aggression. From the perspective of the external observer, we can see how simple and stereotyped the structures of our conflicts are. But when we are ourselves participants in these conflicts, we cannot stay unaffected in our ivory towers. We have to come down to the market-place as equal combatants to sort out the living chaos. How do we behave then – do we sit in judgement? Do we withdraw? Or do we build?

Dialogue, the interaction of equal partners, is required to defuse conflicts. Every one of us has our own life story and background, giving us a unique perspective which must be respected. As we come to understand the conflicts between our different perspectives, we can see that attitudes and deeds have consequences in the creation of structures. By assessing these consequences, we can find agreement on where we should and could be heading. There are no model answers. In the best case, every one of us can find in our own tradition new approaches and models of behaviour, and can learn to understand each other’s different ways of thinking and acting. 

The purpose of our Diversity and Dialogue training is to prevent society developing in the direction of more discrimination. The issues dealt with in the training always fundamentally arise out of the issue of power in society. The training aims to promote ethically sustainable social action which respects human rights. Ethical action presupposes a sense of situation, tolerance of uncertainty and the questioning of what we take for granted. Ethical action cannot be simply following instructions from above; rather, it resembles the musical improvisation of a jazz band. Intercultural situations demand the ability to empathise and at the same time the courage to express opinions and overcome the threshold of inaction.

Our greatest opportunity and resource lies in the people who can construct working models of living together which respect our human differences.

What is Diversity and Dialogue?

The Diversity and Dialogue training programme has been developed with the purpose of solving conflicts involving identity and difference. It aims at equality and adaptation to community diversity. It seeks to uncover the inner attitudes and ingrained prejudices which generate or consolidate discriminatory models of action. Discrimination may be applied to gender, ethnicity, skin colour, sexual orientation or disability.

Diversity and Dialogue is made up of both basic and advanced training courses built around a variety of interactive tasks, discussions, brainstorming sessions and role-plays, which offer pedagogical models and participatory methods of resolving together in a constructive way the issues which cause conflicts.

The basic starting-point of the Diversity and Dialogue training is the belief in human dignity  and the equality of all people. Worldwide human rights, justice, equality, democracy and multiculturalism are the principles which run right through the training programme.

Diversity and Dialogue was originally developed in Sweden during the 1980s as an antidote to the rising tide of racism which was accompanying the growth of multiculturalism. More recently Diversity and Dialogue has developed into a tool in practical use in the Nordic countries to facilitate cooperation in any situations involving any kinds of differences. Diversity and Dialogue is a registered trade mark in Sweden, owned by ’Studieförbundet Bilda’ in conjunction with the Sensus study association. The Diversity and Dialogue instructor training was originated and developed by Orvar Alinder and Marco Helles.

The Swedish-language Diversity and Dialogue training material has been translated and adapted for Finnish society. The license-holder of the Diversity and Dialogue training programme in Finland is the
Finnish Lutheran Church Council. A growing number of cooperating institutions support the training activities, including the Finnish 4H Federation, the Finnish Youth Co-Operation “Allianssi” and the Finnish Red Cross. The activities are coordinated by the coordinator of migration issues in the Church Council in collaboration with a steering group of qualified instructors.

Structure of Training

Content of the Training

The Diversity and Dialogue training aims at adaptation to community diversity, and so is a tool which can be utilized in training by organisations, colleges or working communities from both public and private sectors. Diversity and Dialogue can operate as an entire training process, or its individual themes and methods can be used to supplement other training programmes, making it possible to tailor courses to suit the needs of the client.

Conflicts are the raw materials of the course. Only by dealing with the attitudes and emotional factors at the root of our experiences can we learn to understand and appreciate the consequences of our own and others’ behaviour. Such insights cannot be reached by merely listening to lectures about the dynamics of difference or following gimmicky flipchart presentations about solving social conflicts on paper. Only when we feel these insights under our skin will they stand the test of time and changing circumstances.

The courses are built around a variety of interactive tasks, discussions, brainstorming sessions and role-plays. The course participants’ own experiences and ideas provide the starting-point. With the help of the trained instructor, step-by-step progress is made towards recognising subconscious models of action and finding solutions for the participants’ own living environment. This course does not consist of procedures and methods, even if Diversity and Dialogue does use participatory methods to stimulate feelings and attitudes.

Training package

The training programme consists of a basic course and an advanced course. In addition, those who have put into practice what they learnt on the course can apply to become instructors.

Diversity and Dialogue Basic Course (min. 2 days)
The purpose of the course is to awaken the participants’ awareness of their own world-view. Participants review their identity and culture, their ideas about human worth and human rights and their own personal attitudes to difference. 
The course provides an introduction to how discrimination comes about.

Diversity and Dialogue Advanced Course (min. 2 days)
The course introduces the forms of discrimination and racism, the power structures of society and the utilization and application of Diversity and Dialogue methods. Changes and the need for changes in Finnish society are examined. Together participants try to find means of influencing society and reflect on how the future can be built on a foundation of equality.

In order to qualify as an instructor, those who have participated in both basic and advanced courses must apply what they have learnt in practice in some form, and demonstrate their ability to facilitate a group process. After that it is possible to apply for a place on an instructors’ course (5 days). This course deals with group facilitation, leadership, conflict-solving, choice of methods and course design. These methods and exercises may be freely utilised, but only after qualifying from the instructors’ course can training be arranged using the Diversity and Dialogue trademark. Trainers who have qualified as Diversity and Dialogue instructors will continue to be responsible for all Diversity and Dialogue training courses organised in Finland.