Intergroup Dialogue Train-the-Trainer Program

Transformational Intergroup Dialogue Train-the-Trainer Program  is geared towards professionals and/or student leaders who are interested in improving their skills in developing, implementing and facilitating intergroup dialogue programs, as well as those in the areas of cross-cultural communication; intercultural relations; teaching courses on race, gender, sexual orientation, religion, class, and multicultural education; developing connections across student organizations; and providing support for community development and experiential learning.

Transformational Intergroup Dialogue draws from two well-known and successful models for promoting democratic dialogue, action and civic engagement in the context of diversity: (a) the Michigan Intergroup Relations Model (, a process used by the University of Michigan and universities throughout the United States to promote intergroup dialogue and engagement in higher education and community settings; and (b)Transformational Social Therapy (TST), a process used internationally to promote knowledge sharing and collaborative action involving diverse parties in municipalities, civil society, educational settings, and other public arenas. Both models are informed by the theory and practice of multicultural citizenship and theory and research on learning and equitable social change in the context of diversity. TST’s grounding in depth psychology and critical social theory complements the Michigan Model by contributing a more robust understanding of the ways human needs and social structures interact and influence intergroup behavior.

The training pedagogy will integrate academic and experiential learning and intergroup dialogue practice. Participants will develop personal and interpersonal capacities for diversity/intergroup facilitation, including emotional intelligence (self-awareness, self-confidence, empathy, trustworthiness, relationship building); multicultural awareness (seeing differences as assets; willingness to examine one’s own cultural assumptions, values, biases, and worldview); and awareness of power dynamics in groups and institutions. 

The goal is for participants to be able to:
  • Understand the primary factors involved in facilitating dialogues about difficult diversity issues in ways that further group functioning and group outcomes;
  • Increase skills in gaining the trust and respect of individuals who are culturally different from themselves;
  • Develop an awareness of one's own obstacles to facilitating dialogue with diverse groups;
  • Explore strategies for countering and mitigating individual bias and prejudices during the facilitation process; and
  • Experience how transformational intergroup dialogue helps a diverse group gather sound information from its members for collective understanding and action. 
The training will make significant use of experiential learning pedagogy, which means that an important focus is on learning by reflecting on one’s experience, while also bringing academic knowledge (readings, theories and integrative discussions) to bear on deepening participants’ understanding.  Another aspect of this pedagogy is that participants’ direct their own learning by electing to explore in more depth issues that become significant to them. This is done by participants identifying their own learning goals within the larger context of the learning goals of the training.

Participants will engage in activities relevant to emotional intelligence, group membership and diversity and to the practice of facilitating intergroup dialogues and leading diverse groups. Developing these capacities requires first, the facilitator’s self-awareness about his/her own positionality and attitudes regarding diversity; and  second, the capacity to develop trust and shared motivations among diverse group members. Included in self-awareness is awareness of (a) any biases one may hold and how one may overcome them; (b) the roles one enacts in different contexts; and (c) the ways one participates in collaborative situations. The development of collaboration in a diverse group involves participants’ awareness of the masks we all wear; and (b) creating relationships and an environment in which participants feel free to drop their masks and speak relatively freely about difficult topics.

The training will deepen participants’ understanding of how to work with diverse groups in professional settings.  Participants will review their personal and professional masks, and the ways their fears influence attitudes and behaviors related to social group identity. There will be a significant focus on understanding the socio-psychological bases of social identity and intergroup prejudice and violence; and practicing the “leader as a tool”.


Intergroup Dialogue
An intergroup dialogue is a facilitated learning approach that engages participants in exploring issues of identity, inequality and change through continuous, face-to-face meetings between people from two or more social identity groups that have a history of conflict or potential conflict. Intergroup dialogue is an innovative strategy to enhance participant’s awareness, knowledge and skills in relating to people who are different from them. Dialogues assist participants in enhancing their skills in the area of multicultural competency development, cross-cultural communications, problem solving, teamwork and collaboration.

There are a number of universities that conduct annual intergroup dialogues following the model of the University of Michigan, including the University of Maryland College Park, University of Washington, the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, Occidental College, Arizona State and Mount Holyoke College. Under this model, the aim is for participants to construct new meanings together, build alliances, and move to action. Intergroup dialogue differs from other diversity education programs because it focuses on both the cognitive and affective dimensions.

At least two trained facilitators from varying identity groups facilitate the dialogue. The facilitators are trained in the following areas: self awareness, including awareness of their own social identity in the context of systems of domination/privilege and of oppression/exclusion; knowledge of the groups involved in the dialogue; group process; and community building.

Transformational Social Therapy
Charles Rojzman, a renowned French social psychologist, author, and international consultant, invented Transformational Social Therapy twenty years ago as a method for transforming institutions by helping people address the hatred and violence that separate them and prevent them from working together. The Charles Rojzman Institute has done extensive work in resolving intergroup violence and conflicts in France, Rwanda, Chechnya, and Israel. The main goal of TST, which begins with group dialogues and leads to transformative action, is to foster the practice and theory of healthy multicultural democracies by building relationships between individuals and groups.

TST is oriented to community problem-solving, particularly where groups are divided and problems appear intractable. The TST group building process allows participants to express their emotions, feel sufficiently safe to come into non-violent conflict, share information, and engage in transformative action on problems that affect them.

The transformation of violence into conflict is a key aspect of TST. Violence, defined as the denial of the humanity of the other, is a pathological accommodation to fears that arise from a confluence of societal, institutional, and personal factors. This kind of violence prevents people from living, working, and problem solving together and provides support for fear-based authoritarian and extremist perspectives. The group process enables participants to move from blaming others to taking collective responsibility for the problems they face.  The ability to come into conflict, without the usual “masks”, enables participants to take collective responsibility for the problems they face and put on the table what they know about particular issues or problems.