Dialogue Module

2.5 Creating a ‘dialogic’ environment

There is no way to enforce dialogue as it comes when others are comfortable enough and inclined to share their inner thoughts and feelings. However you can create a ‘dialogic space‘ which will encourage dialogue to happen. As they say, ‘if the process is good, the outcome will be good!

Creating a respectful environment requires:

  • The right mind-set
  • Good preparation and organisation
  • Good facilitation and relationship management

Later we will go into detail about techniques to facilitate discussions and manage relationships. We will also discuss preparation and organisation in the evaluation and planning module. However in order to apply these techniques well, it is important to approach Dialogue with the right mindset.

A good mindset for dialogue requires a shift in cultural norms. As researchers, when we engage the public with our work, we may feel the need to act as an authority and our aim may be to educate or convince. However this is not the way dialogue happens.

To achieve dialogue, we should not view participants as ‘adversaries’ or ‘students’ but should see them as equals with important insights to offer. Think back to the Cumbrian Sheep Farmers example, where it was demonstrated how ignoring the expertise of other publics can lead to disastrous results and can break down relationships. This can be avoided by having respectful and inclusive conversations with different public groups.