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Step 3: Listening and learning through consultations

In a structured consultative process, community members and the Dialogue team build a trusting relationship.

What’s the aim?

To create a trusting relationship between community members and the Dialogue team.

What is this step about? 

The Generation Dialogue takes as its starting point that human behaviour always makes sense: even contentious behaviours have an underlying logic which is connected to values which the individual or the wider community hold dear. Behaviours which have negative effects cannot be countered without first understanding the values which motivate them and which are often an integral part of a person’s or group’s identity. Once these values are acknowledged, it becomes possible to see opportunities to realise them in other ways.

This step of the Dialogue is about understanding and appreciating the community’s values through so-called Community Consultations, which are similar to focus group discussions. When community members feel that someone has a genuine interest in their views and listens to them respectfully, they will be more willing to enter the Dialogue process. A trusting relationship between the Dialogue team and community members is essential for the Dialogue’s success.

What do you need to do?

Here are the things you can do to listen to and learn about the topic from community members:

  • Develop your discussion guide. Think through what you want to know more about and formulate these into questions. The template provided can help you to structure your discussion guide. Review the guide with the Dialogue facilitators and possibly with other selected members of the community. Are you asking the right questions? Are they phrased in neutral, non-judgmental language? Can the questions easily be understood, including by community members with limited education? If there is a need to translate the questions into a local language, this is the time to think about this, as well.
  • Prepare to conduct Community Consultations. Using the exercises provided below, practice with the facilitators how to conduct Community Consultations with groups of younger women, older women, younger men and older men. Think about where and when to hold the Consultations to engage a good cross-section of the community in the consultations. Make a plan to document the main points discussed during each session, e.g. using an outside researcher. 
  • Listen respectfully during Community Consultations and appreciate what is said. The Consultations lay the groundwork for all that follows. It is crucial that you engage with genuine interest and respect, putting aside any preconceived ideas about the issue and listening carefully to how community members speak about it (i.e. what words and phrases they use), which values underpin it, and how they understand it. 
  • Compile the main findings from the Community Consultations. After the sessions are complete, discuss the main themes and insights with the coordinators, facilitators and outside researcher, if you contracted one. Consolidate these so that they can be used when you begin to design your Dialogue sessions (Step 4).
  • Identify participants for Dialogue Sessions. Together with the facilitators and coordinators, take note during the Community Consultations of potential participants to be invited to the Dialogue Sessions. Refer to the list of criteria for Dialogue participants when making your choice.

What resources can you use?

When planning your Community Consultations, refer to this list of organisational considerations.

These exercises can help Dialogue teams to frame the topic of their Generation Dialogue and to identify the right type of questions to ask during Community Consultations. The questions can then be organised and structured with the help of this template.

This guidance note describes how to conduct Community Consultations, including tips for establishing an open and respectful dynamic with participants. Facililtators can also prepare for the Consultations by practicing these exercises.

This guide describes how to select Dialogue participants.

How do you monitor this step?

Outside researchers (at least one male and one female) should be contracted to document the Community Consultations and to prepare an overview report of the main findings. This guidance note provides advice on how to analyse and present the results of Community Consultations.

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

You have conducted Community Consultations with a cross-section of older and younger men and women in the community. Community members who took part in the Consultations felt heard and respected. You have gained new insights into the values which underpin the practice the Dialogue will address, documented these in a report and are ready to use these to design your Dialogue Sessions. Prospective male and female Dialogue participants have been identified.

Do’s and Don’ts

  • DO strive to be open and curious: leave preconceived ideas about the Dialogue topic behind when preparing and conducting the Community Consultations.
  • DON’T conduct Community Consultations without first testing out the discussion guide to make sure the questions are phrased in a way that is understandable.
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