The most important dialogue tool that we developed and use it in our trainings

Name of the tool:

10 questions I never dared to ask!

The exercise aims towards breaking down enemy images and stereotypes  through providing safe space and time for participants to clarify their opinions and stands with regards to other communities/ethnicities etc. 
The ultimate aim of the exercise is not to come to a winning or losing position/s. This is exactly what this dialogue tool is avoiding. In this tool opens possibilities for understanding and offers possibilities to choose accepting something if only wanted. What this tool differs from the others is that it is not focused on competition, argumentation, fight etc.  

1. To make aware the participants of existence of “other stories”;
2. Foster constructive dialogue on inter-racial/ethnic/religious/gender … topics;
3. To enhance communication skills;
4. Build trust among groups that are in clash; and  
5. Promote dialogue as tool for understanding.  

Type of target group:
This exercise can be adopted to many target groups. The rules of the exercise are flexible. This will help the facilitator to determine the level of dialogue and sensitivity that participants can digest.
The exercise is tried it with professional politicians, teachers, principals, parents, students and kids… it simply works!   

Number of participants:
Minimum number of participants is eight. Ideal number is and maximum participants is  The balance in the group must be made in such a way that the exercise reflects the topic that facilitator would like to raise I.e. if the exercise is to be done for the purposes of gender issues than the group must be balanced in terms of gender. We mostly use it for inter-ethnic and racial issues. For this purpose we always make sure that we have the necessary balance of representatives from each community. Ideally it would be better if the exercise focuses on problems two main groups. 

Steps Introduction of the rules

This is perhaps the most crucial part of the exercise. The set up of the rules and instructions should be done in such a flexible way that the facilitator should know how much the participants can digest. On the way there is always space for facilitator to degrease or increase the level of sensitivity of dialogue.

This is exercise that can involve a lot of emotions from the side of the participants. For that specific knowledge is required for facilitators to understand the level of emotions, complexity of the topic and capability of the group to cope with those emotions in the future. It is from high importance the development of the facilitation program for the specific groups. The previous activities of the program (before this exercise) should be in direction in building such kind of trust among participants that they feel free to talk many things without hurting each other. The dialogue with the 10 question is the pick of emotional out blast. After that  blast the facilitators (usually two) need to be able to bring the ball down through using different exercises. In development of the program crucial focus should be given to learning communication skills. This should be the first task that the facilitator should close before entering in to dialogue session. Trust building, non-violence, peace building, conflict management and similar topics are from high importance to be learned before but for this it needs time. The seminars should last longer. Team building, reconciliation, socialization and many outdoor exercises could be very nice tools that could bring the ball down. When used, one must make sure that after the exercise it is provided space for them to reflect on issues of their concern. Some of them might want to continue and some not at all. Above all they should have time to think on what was discussed in the session of dialogue.  

Regarding facilitation it is important to be mentioned that facilitation in pair is advantage.  Two facilitators could deal with issues of two or three groups. The best would be if the facilitators are coming from a background of one of the groups. i.e if there is a dialogue among Serbian and Albanian participants it would be very good if the facilitators are belonging to these groups.

Introducing rules to the participants:
Explain all the rules of the exercise to the participants before you divide them in groups. Make shore that participants get this messages:

Before the exercise
a) Tell to participants that this is their space and they should use it maximum to get to know each other better; whatever is discussed in the premises during this exercise should not go out for public.

b) Give them communication tips. Tell them that it is important that they communicate using all the rules of good communication like: active listening, not interrupting, no offending, no yelling, no answering with questioning etc.

c) Make them aware that you know what you are doing and if you feel something is wrong you will direct the exercise where is more convenient for the whole group;

d) Make them aware that in this exercise there is no winner and that from the beginning all of them are going to be winners because of the fact that they are going to share their opinions and stands and learn from each other, about each other;

e) Make them aware that there is no point in convincing the “others” to accept your stand. It is important that this opinions and stands are exchanged. If one wants to change its own point of view – they can simply do that, but it is not the purpose of the exercise;

f) Give them some tips how to brainstorm the different questions and give possibility to everybody to be involved;

g) If necessary in the dialogue session participants can ask very specific questions for very specific problem in their surrounding. I.e. if you have inter-racial dialogue session in one school, and if there has been violent activities, participants could ask specific questions regarding the specific fights.

Practical rules
h) Participants should be divided in two or three groups depending on their belonging (racial, gender, ethnic,  etc..); This can be done only if the instructions and tips are understood by the participants;

i) They should have 1 hour to design 10 question that they will have chance to ask to the participants. These questions should be the ones that participants never had chance to ask to the “others” because of shame, fear or concern that they are going to hurt somebody. Usually people from “communities in hostile relations” don’t have chance to meet and ask each other sensitive questions.   

j) These 10 questions could be posed from different fields like: politicks, social relations, economy, religion, school, love, fears, concerns, etc. This is in fact the breaking point where the facilitator should decide whether to heave more sensitive session or just “getting to know session”. More sensitive issues are usually the political, racial, national and social topics. More relaxed ones are love, religion, schooling etc.  

k) The 10 questions must be prioritized by importance. The most important question that will need answer from the “others” will have to be the first. This is useful for two reasons: (1) Participants discuss in their group more in details why to prioritize one and not the other. (2) It might happen that there is no time to answer all questions, or simply close the session. Than the participants will always have feelings that the most important things are answered. On the top it is good some of the questions to be left as homework, for the sake of continuation of dialogue and establishing culture of communicating sensitive things.

l) The questions must be formulized in such a way that they present resource centre of knowledge and not a provocation question;

m) Tell them to be inclusive;

n) Ask them to choose one person that will read loudly the questions. This is not a person that will do the whole talking but a person that will only read the questions when is his/her turn, spokesperson.

o) Questions should be written in flipchart paper, but this they should keep for themselves. The flipchart where questions are asked should be rolled and given to one person of the group (spokesperson). They do not show (unfold) it partially, question by question, to the whole group.

p)  Make the participants aware that no matter how silly the questions might look they should put them on board. Many silly questions contain stereotypes about “others”. I.e. Is the left over of penis during circumcision put in meal and than eaten by the guests? 
q) In the end if all questions are not answered that tell to spokespersons to read all the questions remained without commenting on them. Participants will have a small homework than and if there is interest among some of them they could than answer the questions in the social part.

Answering time
r) Each group asks only one question in one cycle. That they should wait for the cycle to finish. If there are three groups they should wait until three questions are closed;

s) The question is asked by the “spokesperson”. If clarification is needed than the others from the same group can jump in.

t) The answers are directed to the whole group and not to one person. Facilitator should make sure that questions are not personalized;

u) When a question is asked, than the group should answer each in order by the rule “first seen”. The answering group can have different opinions about the same questions. Other groups can answer two if they feel competent.

v) A question is closed only when the facilitators get the feeling that everything is exhausted regarding the topic, many things are repeated and of course there is general conclusion by the participants; Facilitator should wrap up each issue with focus on what is been said and what are the conclusions. If possible some of the participants can also do this – so they learn and practice more communication skills.

w) Depending on the circumstances and the time available for such kind of session, facilitator could limit the time of answering questions (15-30 minutes); Some of more important first questions will definitely need more time than 30 min. Flexibility in managing time will be required. 

x) Avoid redundancy in answering and repeating of the same person each time. Always give priority to the ones that are more pulled back, encourage them, and try to get them involved.

y) One facilitator takes turn for facilitating one the series of questions (two questions if there are two groups). The questions to be facilitated should be from one cycle i.e. if there are  two groups one facilitator will facilitate two questions if there is three groups – three questions; This will mean that one facilitator will have to experience questions from all groups even from “their” ones.

z) Consultation time for participants should be provided if necessary;
          aa. Facilitators support each other with input only if necessary;
          bb. Neutrality is extremely important;
          cc. Provocations - only if necessary, if the participants are too shy or they are too closed.   They start to tell notary things that everybody knows and agrees. 
          dd. When participants are formulating the questions will be needed help to formulize them so that they are more assertive and not offending. Some times it might be needed some provocation from the side of the facilitators. This couldbe done only if the participants put questions that are not in direction of understanding or simply will not help the group to learn about the stands. But these provocations should be done very carefully.

In the end make one should make sure that it is organized a good social program where the participants can simply relax. This supportive measure is always helpful because this is the time where theycould continue talking or apologizing to each other if they felt they hurt somebody.

Duration: 4 - 8 hours

Material needed: Flipchart paper, markers
Developed by: Albert Hani, Peacebuilding trainer

* Presentation of the basic rules of the dialogue exercise and presentation of the nonviolent communication are available online on Macedonian language. Please feel free to download them.