Bob Stains: The Public Conversations Project

Dear Subscribers,

Before I tell you about the current episode of The Peacebuilding Podcast, I want to give you some current “stats” and get your input into two questions. Thank you so much for your comments. I really appreciate them and, will do my best to respond.
The Stats. . .
Podcasting is a super cool medium and, I think growing fast. As I said in my very first episode, one of the reasons I do this is simply that I can. From my own home office, with a mic and the internet, and a bunch of supportive friends and colleagues, I can interview people all over the world who are doing great work and broadcast those interviews to you. Amazing, really. Hopefully, it’s making a difference. The Peacebuilding Podcast is now a little over a year old.
The stats as of today are: 
54 -- Plays in the last 24 hours
25 – Countries downloading (e.g. Lebanon, Bulgaria, Afghanistan, The United States, Korea, Colombia)
290 -- Subscribers to this blog. (Many people access the podcast directly through Itunes or Soundcloud and are not blog subscribers. I haven’t been tracking some of the other platforms like Stitcher.)
24 -- Episodes to date, 2 in production.
We are celebrating these accomplishments, and want to do much more.

My two question for you. . .
Target audience/format of the podcast: -- Who should the podcast be for? When I launched, I framed my target audience as: global consultants, mediators, coaches, diplomats, entrepreneurs and others who are interested in process interventions to build common ground. I had an audience from my professional world in mind.  One listener who is not part of that world and who listens regularly said some of my comments left her feeling on the outside of the conversation. Another said that he felt that this podcast could have a super broad reach if I stayed away from trade-specific references in the interviews and just elicited the best stories from my guests, with as much detail as possible about how they did what they did and what the experience was like. Anyway, if you have any thoughts on this topic, I would love to hear them. What would most interest you?
Sponsorship Ideas -- With every episode, this podcast is growing -- by country, by no of listeners, by exposure on twitter and other social media. We are doing it on a shoe string, of course. I and my interns volunteer their time and, and my sound editor and web/social media person might as well be as they don’t make much money from their talented efforts. So if you have any ideas for either a company or individual that might like to be a sponsor -- simply because they support the work or because they want their brand associated with it -- please let us know.  
Thanks ahead of time for any of your thoughts or feedback.

So, on to the latest episode, and the dialogue processes created by The Public Conversations Project aka Essential Partners.
In the current political climate in the United States, there is a heightened interest in bringing people who don’t agree together for dialogue.  One of the first to do this work was the Public Conversations Project (PCP) out of Boston over the hugely contentious issue of abortion.
In the 1980’s and early '90’s, the abortion conflict got to a feverish pitch with allegations of “baby killers” and “woman haters”, resulting in the murders of two women outside an abortion clinic.  In response, Laura Chasin, the founder of PCP, became the co-facilitator of a multi-year, clandestine dialogue between Boston area “pro-life” and “pro-choice” leaders, aka “The Leaders Dialogue”. In the years that followed, Laura and others applied this method, which combines aspects of family therapy, neuroscience and mediation, to a wide variety of communities and issues including same-sex marriage, immigration, gun rights, gender issues, peacebuilding, and many others.
Over the last 22 years, Bob Stains has helped build the PCP. He is a pioneer of the modern dialogue movement, a seasoned facilitator of challenging conversations about identity, religion and values and has trained over 20,000 professionals in the PCP dialogue approach known as “Reflective Structured Dialogue”.
In this episode, Bob describes the process in detail with some examples of an application in the setting of a polarized church congregation, as well as the “Family Dinner Project” and some other initiatives.
Bob shares that a “seed planted in him” to do this work was being raised by a single father which marked him as different: His teachers treated him differently, friends were not allowed to come over to his house because there was no woman present. His father did everything, the ironing the dishes which left Bob often feeling ostracized. The experience shaped his ideas about what it means to be a man and what it means to be outside the mainstream. 
Bob always engaged in difference but did so more “by the seat of his pants” until he encountered the PCP. In his first PCP dialogue, an exchange with someone with polar opposite views on abortion left him amazingly uplifted and connected even though the two deeply disagreed.
Bob tells the story of a church congregation that was deciding whether or not to be welcoming to openly LGBTQ people. Many people had left the congregation because of the issue but came back for the dialogue process. As a result, the congregation voted overwhelmingly to be openly accepting of LGBTQ members. The people who left re-joined because, as Bob says, they felt heard.

Bob explains, some conflicts can’t be resolved but you can have good conversations if you create the right “container.” He has come to realize that what’s most important is the relationship and how people come together, not whether the issue is resolved, especially in highly contentious issues where people are not likely to ultimately see eye to eye.

As evidence of the profound nature of the PCP work, the members of the Leaders Dialogue continue to speak in pro-life, pro-choice pairs to tell people the value of talking across the divide.  Interestingly, all of them will say that they not only did not change their perspectives as a result of the dialogue, but more fully embraced them.  But they also will say that they have grown to respect and love each other through the process and that those strong feelings for each other have kept them together.

Please tune in here, to get some great insights into some best methods to bridge the divide.

Thanks for reading this, thanks for listening,

I send you my warm regards,

Dean Foster: Crossing Cultures

Elizabeth Rabia Roberts: Bearing Witness