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911 Community Dialogue Initiatives


Here are several excellent community dialogue initiatives concerning 911 -- Commons Cafes for a New World, Conversation Cafes and the Listening to Our Neighbors Project. Each has a particular "flavor" and method to it. All involve the public in creative conversations around 911.

I see such conversations as vital to what the Dalai Lama calls "a culture of dialogue", which is a prerequisite for developing the wisdom culture we need and want.

I also look forward to the day when grassroots community dialogues like these are combined with officially institutionalized citizen conversations -- such as citizen deliberative councils. Interactions between those two levels of dialogue will generate a powerful collective intelligence enabling whole societies to reflect on what's happening in and around them and to change their directions when appropriate. You will see more details about this vision over the coming year.

Part of me prays that we have time to get to that point of greater collective intelligence. Another part of me realizes that the more practice we get at this, and the greater the number of people who know that generative conversations are possible, the more likely it will be that we'll achieve that collective intelligence in time to shift our cultures towards sustainability and common sense.

-- Tom Atlee


1. Sharif Abdullah of the Commonway Institute designed the "Commons Café for a New World" (inspired by Juanita Brown and The World Café process It looks like this: A few friends gather at a crowded coffee house. Conversations deepen. Fundamental issues are discussed. People at another table overhear and join the conversation, presenting different points of view. The conversation is lively, furious, but friendly. No one is trying to "win". For the month of January 2002, The Commonway Institute is encouraging people all around the nation and the world to engage in deep, meaningful conversations about all our lives, our challenges and our future in the post September 11th world.

2. Vicki Robins of the New Road Map Foundation designed Conversation Cafés to offer simple, safe, comfortable ways for people of varying views to take part in deepening conversations in public settings about September 11. These Cafés are opportunities to listen and to speak about this current crisis with a wider circle of people, so that all can explore their own feelings and ideas, learn and understand more about what it means, and respond from greater clarity. A Conversation Café is a one-and-a-half hour hosted conversation, held in a public setting like a café, where anyone in the café is welcome to join .

3. 'Listening to Our Neighbors' Programs are a form of Listening Project. Anyone can do one, going from door to door, talking with neighbors -- asking them deepening questions and listening well to their responses. This can be done either formally (as if doing a survey) or very informally (as if just chatting). The link given here provides you with guidelines and even suggested questions for doing this around the subject of the 911 crisis.


For evocative questions re 911, see Questions for reflection about the 911 attacks