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Awakin Calls » Bob Stains

Bob Stains: Dialogue Builder, Community Public Conversation Facilitator
May 2, 2015: Rehumanizing Difference Through Dialogue



Read: Call Transcript (Also: Empower With Empathy)

This Saturday, we will hear from Bob Stains of the Public Conversations Project (PCP) in Watertown, MA. For the past 20 years, Bob has been a leader in PCP's work of creating constructive conversations among opponents in divisive conflicts arising from differences in identities, values and world-views. He has worked intensively on religious and values differences over guns and abortion; on divides of race, social class and gender and on differences of faith and sexual orientation within and between local, national and international organizations. He trains other senior practitioners in PCP'™s Reflective Structured Dialogue approach, which draws on strategies developed by family therapists to promote effective communication in the midst of painful differences, and incorporates See full.
This Saturday, we will hear from Bob Stains of the Public Conversations Project (PCP) in Watertown, MA. For the past 20 years, Bob has been a leader in PCP's work of creating constructive conversations among opponents in divisive conflicts arising from differences in identities, values and world-views. He has worked intensively on religious and values differences over guns and abortion; on divides of race, social class and gender and on differences of faith and sexual orientation within and between local, national and international organizations. He trains other senior practitioners in PCP'™s Reflective Structured Dialogue approach, which draws on strategies developed by family therapists to promote effective communication in the midst of painful differences, and incorporates insights and tools from mediation, appreciative inquiry, organization development, and interpersonal neurobiology.  

"For us, dialogue is a conversation with a form to it," Bob says.  "It involves a reflective process of trying to understand where you and the other are coming from, and a structured process of engagement.  At its core it's a conversation for the purpose of understanding rather than for debate and rather than for persuasion."  He adds that "it is a tremendous opportunity to see the changes people experience when they participate in dialogue with people they absolutely cannot imagine having a construction conversation with -- people they really, really deeply differ with -- and they're sort of shocked, surprised and gratified not just that they can have a conversation, but that they can make a deep connection."

Stains is a frequent conference and university speaker, and he provides consultation to academic, civic and religious leaders in the US and abroad.  He is a co-founder of The Family Dinner Project, a nonprofit organization currently operating from the offices of Project Zero at Harvard University that provides families, neighborhoods, and communities informational tools about scheduling, food, fun, and conversation in order come together regularly over a shared meal to share their experiences and insights, and to realize the multi-faceted long-term benefits of family dinners.  He also consults to the Interpersonal Skills Component of the Harvard Negotiation Project at Harvard Law School, serves on the Executive Board of The Democracy Imperative and as a Guest Scholar Practitioner for Kansas State University'€™s Dialogue, Deliberation and Public Engagement program. Bob has recently been an Adjunct Faculty member at Hamline University School of Law's Dispute Resolution Institute, and is currently Adjunct at The Straus Institute for Dispute Resolution at the Pepperdine University School of Law. In addition to his work with PCP, Bob maintains a private mediation, training and consulting practice in Danvers, MA.


Five Questions for Bob

What Makes You Come Alive?
When, in the course of a dialogue among deeply divided people, I see one person turn to another and say, "George, I've been in this organization with you for 35 years, and I never knew that about you. Now I understand why this means so much to you!"

Your Greatest Inspiration?
Being present at the birth of my children. In those moments, I felt united to every being, living or dead: those giving birth, those watching with fear and wonder, those being born.

An Act of Kindness You'll Never Forget?
In the midst of hard family times as a teen, people from a tiny local church took me under their wings. They fed me when I was hungry, clothed me and gave me shelter when I needed it. Through them I learned that I was worthy of being loved.

One Thing On Your Bucket List?
Travel across the country on my motorcycle.

One-line Message for the World?
Move from certainty to caring through curiosity about "the other."


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