Program Description

Turn on the television or radio these days and everyone from farmers to journalists, pharmacists to mechanics, teachers to engineers, psychiatrists to delivery workers is saying “we need to have a conversation.” And we need to have conversations around a running list of topics that range from the momentous to the mundane, whether they be about the long legacy of slavery in the United States to whether government should regulate the amount of sugar in soft drinks. Somehow, we hope, these conversations will happen spontaneously and with good will on all sides. Yet, we also know that conversations are difficult even to initiate let alone carry on in a way that supports mutual understanding and respect.

Since 2017, Illinois Humanities has been providing free facilitation trainings that can help our partners not only start these critical conversations, but cultivate, navigate, and deepen them. As philosopher Kwame Anthony Appiah suggests, “conversations do not have to lead to consensus about anything…it’s enough that it helps people get used to one another.”

Illinois Humanities is delighted to be able to offer the opportunity to learn the techniques of facilitating critically reflective, text-based conversation. We look forward to learning, listening, and growing with you.

About Facilitation Training

Facilitation trainings at IH are focused on the practice of reflective dialogue. The purpose of reflective dialogue is three-fold: to develop insight and understanding of a particular topic, to develop relationships among participants by listening and hearing each other’s differing perspectives, and to deepen a sense of commitment and agency to the work we are each doing in the world. Reflective dialogue Is especially useful when discussing topics that can often divide us—from systemic racism to police-community relations to social change.  It creates space to help people connect and explore the challenging questions that underlie our values and actions.

In practice, reflective dialogue uses an “object”, such as a photograph, poem, or essay, to help focus discussion and give everyone something in common. The object is intended to challenge our habitual ways of thinking, open up questions and spark new connections. Importantly, reflective dialogue requires us to work collectively to work towards insights we may not arrive at on our own.

Some aspects of each facilitation training include:

  • Suggestions for planning and leading your own discussions;
  • A chance to experience a variety of objects, so you can get a sense of how to use different resources for discussion;
  • Opportunities to practice in real-time; and
  • Troubleshooting tips.

Session Registration

Each year, Illinois Humanities hosts four Facilitation Trainings and four Facilitation Clinics.