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Essential Partners

Our mission is to foster constructive dialogue wherever conflicts are driven by differences of identities, beliefs, and values. Difficult conversations — about the issues that matter most — are too often avoided or approached with fear. Essential Partners has worked for three decades to facilitate conversations and equip people using our approach to dialogue. We bring a method that is applicable and adaptable to a wide variety of contexts. Our method, Reflective Structured Dialogue (RSD), relies on preparation, structure, questions, facilitation, and reflection to enable people to harness their capacity to have the conversations they need to have. Essential Partners offers workshops, custom training, and dialogue facilitation, as well as consultation. Our aim is to equip you to have meaningful conversations about essential issues, so you can move forward and create a better way of living together.

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"To sustain this democracy, we must work to make space for the complex and contradictory identities within us and within each other," writes Pritchard.

The poverty of partisan identity

Pritchard is the director of strategic communications for Essential Partners, which fosters constructive dialogue where differences are driven by values, views and identities.

"Unless democratic habits of thought and action are part of the fiber of a people," the American philosopher John Dewey wrote on the eve of World War II, "political democracy is insecure. It can not stand in isolation. It must be buttressed by the presence of democratic methods in all social relationships."

Today, many of our social relationships have been stripped of those methods. Democratic habits are imperiled, if not lost. And many advocates, pundits and politicians point to "identity politics" as the cause.

Identity politics, the criticism goes, have corrupted our public discourse, our politics and our civic life. We read that identity is divisive, rancorous and dangerous. You can find this sentiment in op-eds, newspaper columns, Twitter threads and stump speeches. There's too much identity, the thinking goes, and not enough open debate.

I disagree. We don't have too much identity in our political lives. We have too little.

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Introduction to Dialogue Across Differences

Organizer: Essential Partners

This one-day workshop uses real-world case studies to introduce participants to the theory and practice of EP's Reflective Structured Dialogue framework. For three decades, our unique approach has transformed conflicts across the country and the world—but the basic principles of EP's framework are applicable to local community issues, organizational development, congregations, and everyday conversations. Intentional communication helps individuals, organizations, and communities build trust, enhance resilience, and engage in constructive conversations despite deeply-held differences of value, belief, opinion, or identity. This workshop provides a set of simple tools to achieve those goals.

Location: 186 Alewife Brook Parkway, Suite 212, Cambridge, MA 02138

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