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Step 1: Identifying a community where a Dialogue could unlock change

The first step of any Dialogue process is to find a community where the conditions for its successful implementation are in place.

What’s the aim?

To find a community where the conditions for a successful Dialogue process are in place.

What is this step about? 

The Dialogue can help to unlock processes of social change by creating space for respectful, non-judgmental communication between people of different generations and sexes about practices which relate to cherished traditions and community value systems, but which at the same time cause harm. The Dialogue approach is not suitable in all contexts, and care must therefore be taken in deciding whether or not to use it.

The first step of the Dialogue is to identify a community where the approach may be suitable. These are communities where a locally-led change effort has been underway, but has not been successful or has gotten ‘stuck’, and where those who are trying to bring about change are looking for new ways to tackle an issue. 

What do you need to do?

If you think a Dialogue process might help to unlock progress on a problem central to your project, here’s where to start:

  • Conduct an informal scoping exercise. What activity is going on in relation to this topic in the districts or regions where your project is working? Consult with other organisations, government counterparts and key informants to come up with a shortlist of areas where local groups or actors have been working to change attitudes on an entrenched problem.
  • Talk to local actors and institutions in the communities you identify. Go beyond NGOs! Search out community based organisations (CBOs), women’s associations, or church groups active on your topic. Find out more about their work: what they’ve tried, where they’ve made progress, and what hasn’t worked as they hoped. What’s blocked their progress?
  • Meet with community leaders to understand how they see the issue and, without making promises, to gauge how open they would be to a Dialogue process. 
  • Choose a community where there is a clear interest in change and where local actors are open to try something new. Look for a ‘spark of change’ that is struggling to catch alight. 

What resources can you use?

This checklist can help you narrow down your options when selecting a community.

How do you monitor this step?

Prepare a short report which describes what you have done and how the final decision takes into account the criteria in the checklist.

How do you know you’re ready to proceed to the next step?

You’re ready to keep going if you have reached a well-reflected decision about a participating community, based on the criteria in the checklist.

Do’s and Don’ts

  • DO take the time to consult widely.
  •  DON’T simply pick ‘a place’ because it is convenient. 
  • DO go beyond the ‘usual suspects’ (NGOs) when speaking with local actors.
  • DON’T use the Generation Dialogue as a way to start a change process where one is not yet underway.
  • DO be sure to visit more than one community to have a comparison.
  • DON’T overpromise in initial conversations.
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