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Dialogue Community of Practice 
Reflections on 2014-15 
The Dialogue Community of Practice has completed another year of work. The series of masterclasses and separate practice development groups have worked well. Below is a short review of the activities and some of our reactions to it as a reminder for those who were there and a taster for those who were not. We look forward to meeting you at the next sessions.

Each masterclass was designed to stand alone and be comprehensible to someone joining the Community of Practice for the first time. They also built a wider conceptual construction for those who wanted to explore more aspects and applications of dialogue practice.
In our first masterclass Margaret Williamson, from Boardroom Development Ltd, led us in an exploration of David Kantor’s work on Dialogue and Structural Dynamics.

Here we examined how each of our behavioural preferences in conversation contribute to patterns in conversation which can be both helpful and unhelpful. We explored in small and large group conversations the impact of our propensities for open, closed or random approaches to intervening in systems, or conversations and also the attention we place on thinking, feeling or action when we communicate possibilities.
Chris Rogers led our second masterclass on Culture and Conversations. He discussed the impact of informal conversations, power relationships and political processes on organisational outcomes. There were some interesting conversations in the afternoon, as participants explored how they might influence the ‘wiggly world’ or ‘informal coalitions’ in their own organisations and systems and thus contribute to shifting organisational culture.
The third masterclass was led by Wendy Faulkner, from Talking Tweed on Dialogue and Deliberation allowed her to talk about the formal work she and her colleagues have done for the Scottish Government bringing people together to talk about contentious national issues such as Wind farms and explain her methodology for group  exploration of issues (dialogue)  followed by making decisions (deliberation).
For our September masterclass, Anne Dickson, author and psychologist, presented material on Emotions, Trust and Resilience. People in the Dialogue Community of Practice tell us that dealing with their emotions while involved in disagreements is something they find difficult. Anne explored how to articulate feelings whilst in conversation, without expressing blame and judgement of other people. Anne skilfully established a sense of safety in what was a large group and enabled participants to share and work on areas of personal concern, how to own feelings, deal with emotional triggers and become more aware of unhelpful personal perceptions.
Paul Hoggett’s recent masterclass on Dialogue and Moral Dilemmas in Public Services brought the series to a close. This time we explored the nature of dilemmas we each face working in Public Services. It was helpful to acknowledge the contradictions, the sometimes impossible choices that are often a way of life in public services. Examples included, delivering innovation but with short term funding and providing bespoke services to clients whilst ensure equity of access across geographies.
The concepts of over and under identification seemed to particularly resonate with the participants. Over identification: where we become so ‘emotionally caught up with an issue or case’ we lose capacity for perspective and professional judgement, often leading to burn out. Under identification: where we become so detached from the issues and the work that it we become removed from the impact of our decisions and actions and  lose sensitivity to ourselves and others. Paul discussed the need to understand and recognise the impact of both ends of the scale in ourselves and others and adapt our behaviour accordingly. Paul’s mix of input, case studies, small and large group discussion and space to work on our own dilemmas made for a great day. 
In addition to the topics, the Dialogue Community of Practice participants have also had the opportunity to visit some fabulous buildings in our cities, including the Mitchell Library and the City Chambers in Glasgow, and Royal Society of Edinburgh. Whilst the series has welcomed a broad range of speakers, each sharing different thinking and models, there have been themes that connect them.

We learned the importance of self awareness as the foundation for dialogue. This requires us to reflect and be reflexive in the middle of conversation. If we can do this, we create more moments of conscious, deliberate, constructive behaviours, in conversation and through it increasing the possibility of creating more quality conversations and relationships. These relationships in turn, can face rather than avoid difficult subjects and  decisions.

Great dialogue embraces passion and rigorous thought. This is something that we won’t always get  right, however, if we put in the effort, we think we can increase the percentage of time we are making a ’good enough’ attempt to make a difference to our own lives and those that we serve.
Dialogue Practice Groups
The Dialogue Community of Practice was last reviewed in June 2014 so we are once again taking stock of what we have accomplished and what is needed now to support public services transform through enhancing the quality of relationships through conversations. This review will commence in March and will involve Dialogue Community of Practice members and sponsors of the work. 
In the meantime, to meet the demand for training on the theories and concepts which shape dialogue, a two day beginners training course, Core Concepts of Dialogue will be held on 27th April and 8th June in Edinburgh Training Centre.

Participants must attend both days. Each day will start 9.30am and finish by 4pm. The training will be delivered by Joanne Rafferty and colleagues. If you would like to participate in this two day training course, please register your interest here no later than 23rd March.
Want to know more?

If you have questions or queries on any of the resources, events or interventions mentioned , please email info@workforcescotland.com.
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