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Risk and Transformation: What ever happened to dialogue?
What passes for dialogue in the mass media is too often ideologically closed and politically volatile punditry. At the same time, communication has become unidirectional: the mass media speaks at us, not with us.
The Internet and social networks have created new spaces for us to narrate our lives in minute detail. Emails are dashed off with thoughtless abandon. Students walk around campus with eyes focused on their latest text message rather than their fellow students. In cyberspace, place disappears, time compresses, change accelerates and the things that connect us are less about culture and tradition than technology and consumption.
At the same time our institutions (social, business, government and educational) encourage isolation through specialization and structures that foster competition rather than cooperation. That our communities are disintegrating should not surprise us. Communities must be grounded in open, honest, trustworthy communication. And just as information is not knowledge (much less wisdom), the communication of our age is not dialogue.
Authentic dialogue can only happen if the participants are willing to risk their presuppositions. Authentic dialogue must also have the potential for transformation of the participants. Providing spaces where we can dare to take those risks and be transformed is critical. Universities often provide that space. The Brueggeman Center is a space where dialogue is not only encouraged but taught, where commitment to dialogue is the first and foremost expectation.
Because the Brueggeman Center partners on every project, all our projects begin and end in dialogue, working with our partners to design, implement and share in their success.
Our projects use dialogue and collaboration to build social capital - the human-to-human engagement that forges the civic bonds upon which our communities are built. Collaboration emerges out of dialogue and social capital emerges out of collaboration. Social capital is not an abstract idea of collaboration but the actual hard, slow work of community-building. Only through dialogue will we begin to find the commitment and ways to work together toward those common goods essential to a thriving community.