Let's Listen and Learn: Intergroup Dialogue and Restorative Practices

The Office of Institutional Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion fosters spaces in which people come together in community and supports constituent groups and individuals so that they feel welcome, heard, and respected on and beyond our campus. We integrate restorative practices into our community, facilitate intergroup dialogues, and provide avenues for individuals to share their experiences. We also help resolve conflicts and address harm.

We encourage proactiveness in all of our approaches, but there are times when conflicts arise between individuals or groups within the community, and in those instances we are responsive.  At all times, we support deeper listening and learning and meaningful dialogue.

There are a number of ways that we encourage and facilitate opportunities for proactive community building and intentional focus on building relationships, trust, empathy, and a sense of belonging, as well as addressing conflict and harm.  Two of those ways are through intergroup dialogue and restorative practices.  Both encourage understanding how aspects of a person’s identities impact their experiences and acknowledging the ways conscious and implicit biases impact individuals. Several members of the OIDEI team are trained in Intergroup Dialogue and Restorative Practices.

Intergroup Dialogue (IGD)

Intergroup dialogues involve structured, sustained, face-to-face meetings of individuals who are a part of two or more social identity groups – these social identity groups may or may not have a history of conflict. Intergroup dialogues are intended to foster increased understanding of commonalities and differences between and among groups, develop dialogue skills to better communicate and work through conflicts, form alliances and empower groups and individuals to take collective action for social change.

Fundamental to the principle of IGD is learning the difference between debate, discussion, and dialogue and learning skills to practice dialogue across and beyond the College. Take a look at the chart below.

In dialogue we… In discussion we… In debate we…
  • Broaden our own perspective
  • Express paradox and ambiguity
  • Find places of agreement
  • Explore thoughts and feelings
  • Listen with a view to understand
  • Challenge ourselves and others’ preconceived notions
  • Honor silence
  • Build relationships
  • Ask questions and invite inquiry
  • Present ideas
  • Enlist others
  • Persuade others
  • Acknowledge feelings, then discount them as inappropriate
  • Listen for places of disagreement
  • Achieve preset goals
  • Avoid silence
  • Retain relationships
  • Succeed or win
  • Defend our opinion
  • Stress disagreement
  • Deny others’ feelings
  • Discount the validity of feelings
  • Listen with a view of countering
  • Judge other viewpoints as inferior, invalid, or distorted
  • Use silence to gain an advantage
  • Disregard relationships

Restorative Practices

Restorative Practices, is a leadership, organizational, and community development framework that focuses on building relationships through on-going and sustained interactions.

80-90% of restorative practices is proactive, i.e., building relationships

10-20% of restorative practices is responsive, i.e., responding to harm

Restorative Practices…

  • Are relational
    • They rely on affective behaviors, which are expressed through questions and statements that allow for the healthy expression of feelings.
  • Provide members of a community the opportunity to share how they have been impacted by behavior(s)
  • Allow members of a community to confront general and ongoing disruptive behavior
  • This can happen alongside conduct processes
    • However, some situations cannot be repaired restoratively, because of people’s unwillingness to participate in the process.

Proactive Community Building

  • Used throughout the campus community with small or large groups during class gatherings, team gatherings, office meetings, and in residence halls
  • Provides community members the opportunity to interact and dialogue in positive ways
  • One way that students, faculty, and staff get to know each other and build connections

Responsive Community Restoration

  • We leverage the proactive relationship capital we’ve built to process and address incidents of harm between parties
  • Allows members of a community to confront general and ongoing disruptive behavior
  • Provides a community the opportunity to share how they have been impacted by behavior(s)
  • Gives people a “voice” in times of anger, pain, crisis

Let’s Circle Up!

Restorative Practices support all members of the community and are carried out in circles.

Circling is the way that we get to know each other, build and maintain relationships.  In a circle, everyone may be seen and heard, and; no one voice is more important than others.

Restorative Practices and Intergroup Dialogue at the College stem from a belief in and a commitment to the importance of understanding how aspects of a person’s identities impact their lived experiences and/or in-experiences. RP prioritizes a fair process that allows a community to acknowledge ways of conscious or implicit biases and behaviors that impact others’ lived experience of Williams. Our RP responses are tailored to enhance lifelong learning and the removal of harm that contributes to the wellness of all members of our community.

If you would like to learn more, please let us know!