Given the severity of social, economic and political divides today, if you are not familiar with the concept of Intergroup Dialogue, you should be.
What Does Intergroup Dialogue Do?
In a nutshell: Intergroup Dialogue’s main objectives are to: increase understanding of social identities; explore the effects of social inequality at personal, interpersonal, and structural levels; develop skills to work effectively across difference; and strengthen individual and collective capacities to address social justice issues on college campuses and beyond. For classes and training, during half the semester, students are either on the privileged side or the lacking privilege side, and then they switch sides. So they get an almost firsthand real feel for what the other side is experiencing emotionally – and many people find it life-changing.
With my several decades long attraction to #CrossGenerationalConversation, which has grown into a passion in my work and pervasive in my relationships, it’s not surprising I was drawn to get involved in my alma mater Cornell’s Intergroup Dialogue Project (IDP). My first thought when I found out about it - after “This is so cool and so needed more every day in our businesses, communities and the world,” was “I’m going to campaign to get generational differences and imbalances woven into the issues the Intergroup Dialogue programs address.” (Workin’ on it!) After the Program Director invited me to meet with the amazing student facilitators and I facilitated and moderated discussions and panels with them, I was named the Alumni Ambassador for Cornell’s IDP and have been working hard to get more visibility and alumni support. The student demand has led to waiting lists to get into the courses, and the goal set for student enrollment in the courses was met way ahead of schedule. At Cornell and some other schools, the courses are not just for college students but also are including, in separate courses, faculty and staff. There will even be a pilot at the new Cornell-NY Tech this year.
Earlier this month I attended the second international universities Intergroup Dialogue Conference, hosted at Cornell. I may have been the only attendee who is not faculty, administration or a student at a college. It was fascinating to attend the conference sessions and have casual conversations with people from college freshman to faculty, administrators and researchers ranging in age from Gen Z to Traditionalist generations – all passionate about intergroup dialogue.
Most of the identity issues discussed were around race and gender and how intergroup dialogues have been established on campuses and between colleges and diverse surrounding communities in some cases. None had specifically focused generational initiatives, but several presenters and other people I spoke with acknowledged the need, especially students and young faculty who asked to be on my lists and expressed interest in my book., “You Can’t Google it!” So, personally gratifying, all inspiring, and most importantly moving the needle toward the kind of open and difficult discussions we need in order to address lack of understanding, inequities, balance of privilege and not.
I learned more about the process of intergroup dialogue, what has worked to increase buy-in, and strategic questioning to get people of many kinds of differences, including differences of thought, together to solve problems. My interest continues to grow, and I hope I have elevated your interest to learn more.