Building Inclusive Communities through Intercultural Dialogue

Why Do We Need Intercultural Dialogue?

The need for dialogue across difference has never been more pronounced.  Throughout the last election season and into President Trump’s year in office, it is alarmingly clear that as a country we have lost the ability to develop common understanding across difference 

Despite the communication chasm, we know that real social change for the common good occurs when people with sharply differing opinions roll their sleeves up and commit to contributing together to the common pool of knowledge.

We know that employers seek individuals who have the ability to work across difference.  We know that best outcomes in public and private spheres emerge when individuals have developed the ability to listen generously, to challenge previously held assumptions, to commit to remaining in brave spaces especially when the dialogue is uncomfortable. And we know that through genuine human interactions, we can nurture understanding and dissipate fear.

From daily micro-aggressions to international conflict and war, it is evident that people from different backgrounds tend to have difficulty talking to and listening to one another. Yet meaningful conversations can help people recognize and overcome their implicit biases and overt prejudices.

We see university campuses across our country erupting in discord tied to the inability of different identity groups to understand one another. MSU is at an historic juncture where we are positioning ourselves to be local and national leaders in using a dialogic approach to strengthen our civil society and academic community. We can directly benefit from as well as model for others the power of engaging people from different backgrounds, perspectives, identities, and worldviews for the common good.


What is Intercultural Dialogue (ICD)?

Intercultural Dialogue (ICD), also called “Intergroup Dialogue,” “Intergroup Relations,” or “Sustained Dialogue,” has been employed over the past three decades in various forms for widely different constituencies ranging from college students in a classroom to married couples in their kitchens to warring factions in the Middle East.  It is well researched, has a proven track record, and has measurable outcomes.  Developing and instituting a sustainable intercultural dialogue program unique to MSU will have significant positive impacts in many domains.

Intercultural dialogue is an interdisciplinary approach that draws upon both cognitive and affective ways of knowing to improve human relationships across different, and often oppositional identities.  Intercultural dialogue is a face-to-face learning experience that brings together people from different identity groups over a sustained period of time to:

  1. understand their commonalities and differences,
  2. examine the nature and impact of societal inequalities,
  3. explore ways of working together toward greater equality and justice, and
  4. prepare individuals to live, work, and lead in a complex, diverse stratified society

Intercultural dialogue uses a dialogic methodology that moves participants to deeper and more meaningful levels of engagement. Participants in a ‘dialogue’ benefit from being led through a series of exercises by trained facilitators in a brave space. Intercultural dialogue is designed to enhance participants’ capacities to work with people who are different than themselves.  Ultimately, if people know how to dialogue with others who are different from them, we can build truly inclusive and collaborative communities.



Over the 2017-2018 academic year, MSU will be rolling out our “Building Inclusive Communities through Intercultural Dialogue” project. 

Please look for the following in the coming year:

  • FACT – Facilitator’s Core Advisory Team
  • Publication of MSU’s Facilitator’s Training Manual
  • Train the facilitators opportunities
  • Opportunities to participate in sustained dialogue on campus
  • Dialogue resource center


For more information, contact:

Dr. Donna Rich Kaplowitz

Faculty Associate

Office of Inclusion and Intercultural Initiatives

Room 112 Olds Hall