Since 1976, Interfaith Works has been developing the capacity for cross-cultural dialogue leading to community action and/or public policy change. IFW first began building bridges of understanding when a handful of faith communities gathered for open dialogue. In 1995, IFW initiated the Community Wide Dialogue designed to bring Central New York community members together to discuss and take action on a variety of complex problems facing our community. The Community-Wide Dialogue to End Racism—now the longest running dialogue of its kind in the nation—grew out of these initial dialogue circles. Twenty years later more than 10,000 individuals have participated in more than 400 dialogue circles on racism. Hundreds of people have been trained to facilitate the circles and have spread these skills far and wide throughout our community. The program has grown from an all-adult project to now encompass elementary, middle, and high schools; teen youth groups; college students among others.
The dialogue process builds the capacity of the whole community. Both facilitators of the dialogue circles and community members learn methods of constructive engagement that inform public policy and community problem solving. InterFaith Works believes that that the dialogue process helps to develop a common ground on which people can stand, leading to lasting, positive change.
InterFaith Works built on our strong track-record of success by launching the El-Hindi Center for Dialogue. The Center–established through a generous gift from the Ahmad and Elizabeth El-Hindi Foundation– serves as a regional hub for constructive community engagement and for the important work of dialogue. Our administrative offices at 1010 James Street houses the El-Hindi Center for Dialogue, allowing us to bring together disparate groups of people to foster mutual understanding and trust, and to find additional ways to work together for the betterment of our whole community.
We are now accepting nominations for our Annual Racial Justice Awards Ceremony. Please click on the link below for more information and to submit your nominations.
Click the donate button to make a secure online gift to the El-Hindi Center for Dialogue:
Intergroup Dialogues to Build Relationships and Understanding
• Explore how racism has affected us;
• Uncover stereotypes that need to be challenged;
• Understand the differences between personal bigotries and structural racism;
• Deepen their commitment to becoming allies; and
• Take action in our homes, communities and workplace.
Interfaith Dialogue address the challenge of building peace by promoting acceptance of religious andcultural differences to build bridges and eliminate hatred and suspicion. Each group of 6-10 people of diverse spiritual and religious traditions, meets for six, two-hour sessions, led by two diverse co-facilitators. InterFaith Works’ dialogue guide is entitled Seeking Common Ground, and was informed by a national dialogue model developed by Everyday Democracy.
InterFaith Works is partnering with three local college campuses to support campus-wide dialogue about stereotype and unconscious bias (always including race and ethnicity, but often other demographic factors, such as gender, class, and sexual identity) and to forge effective relationships among the respective college campus communities. The college campus dialogues include:
- Onondaga Community College Student Conversation Circles: Race, Gender, Religion, Economic Status, and Sexual Orientation;
- Le Moyne College Dolphins in Dialogue;
- Tompkins Cortland Community College Brave Space Dialogues
The Starting Small Program involves day-long or semester-long “exchanges” between suburban and urban school students. CFD uses a facilitated dialogue process, discussion guides and interactive activities to spark conversations, diffuse tensions, break down stereotypes and build bridges of understanding among participating youth. The program serves approximately 650 youth and teens from 14 area schools each academic school year.
Courageous Conversations about Race
Courageous Conversations about Race Initiative was an IFW/Syracuse City School District partnership designed to engage Syracuse City School District’s entire staff (administration and faculty) in facilitated dialogue about race in order to assist in closing the achievement gap.
Syracuse University Care Dialogues
Conversations About Race and Ethnicity (CARE) was a collaborative initiative between IFW and SU’s Division of Student Affairs and Academic Affairs. The program provides dialogue circles each semester for students, and all residence hall directors participate as part of their training. IFW provided technical assistance, materials and training for facilitators.
College Campus Dialogues
- Syracuse University Office of Residents Life Dialogue About Race and Ethnicity; and
- Syracuse University Student-Department of Public Safety Dialogues.
Sustained Dialogues for Communities in Strained Relationships
City of Syracuse Police-Community Dialogues have been developed in collaboration with the City of Syracuse Police Department to strengthen relationships and understanding in our community about law enforcement in order to serve as a foundation for how we might improve public safety in our community and avoid future crises. More specifically, IFW’s Syracuse Police-Community Dialogue Project will help police better understand the community and personal perspectives of policing and help the community better appreciate the challenges of the work of police in order to build trust and respect among them. InterFaith Works’ dialogue guide is entitled Seeking a Shared, Safe Community, and was informed by a national dialogue model developed by Everyday Democracy.
Syracuse Seeds of Peace is a collaborative project initiated with the support of Say Yes to Education, Inc., and sustained through a partnership between InterFaith Works, the Syracuse City School District, Onondaga County, and the national Seeds of Peace organization The program brings refugee and American born city high school students together to build strategic relationships, and to facilitate deeper understanding, acceptance and tolerance. The program has brought almost 120 Syracuse City School District students to Otisfield, Maine, to attend the Seeds of Peace Camp for 14 days. While there, youth engage in facilitated dialogue sessions to explore racial identity and to learn how to reduce racially-motivated bullying in their schools and communities. These students then support Syracuse Seeds of Peace clubs in each of the five Syracuse high schools to develop peace-building projects in their schools, in partnership with other schools, and in the community.
Follow this link for the national Seeds of Peace Facebook page.
Follow this link to the Syracuse Seeds of Peace page on the national parent website.
- Italian-South East Asian Dialogues
- North Side American-born and Refugee Dialogues
- Anti-Bullying Dialogues
- Syracuse Housing Authority Dialogue for Africans and African-Americans
Study Circles on Community Issues
• describes the issue
• offers a variety of solutions that represent distinctly different viewpoints
• lays out the pros and cons of choosing one solution over another
• presents a set of questions that helps the participants find common ground upon which to craft the solution that the majority of the community can support.
Facilitators help participants clarify their own points of view and listen to points of view that is different from their own. Study Circles occur in multiple locations simultaneously or within a short duration of time, and include participants from diverse socio-economic and ethnic backgrounds. The Dialogues end with an Action Forum that:
• allows the whole community to hear the voices of each group
• further explores the issue through expert panel discussions or additional dialogue circles
• identifies places of community consensus and community division
• creates a space for citizens and community leaders to develop Action Teams to continue the work on addressing the community’s issue.
Beginning in the fall of 2014, the Center for Dialogue will initiate Community Issues Dialogues. Working with strategic community partners, InterFaith Works will identify one critical issue on which community dialogue is needed. A large scale recruitment effort will ensure a diverse group of participants who will be led by culturally competent, diverse facilitators. The dialogues will address particular geographic areas within the region, and will build the capacity of the region to continue the dialogue process to address subsequent issues.
Examples of Possible Community Issues Dialogues:
• How Should We Clean Up Onondaga Lake?
• What Does It Mean to be a Refugee Resettlement City?
• Should Interstate 81 Come Down?
• Should Our Town Ban or Allow Hydro fracking?
• Should Local Governments Consolidate?
• What is the Role and Responsibility of a Migrant Community?
• How Does the Presence of a Prison in Our Town Influence Our Vitality?
• How Can We Assure that Our Teens Graduate?
After exploring a range of social economic issues impacting youth in our community, all participants agreed that they wanted every child to have a level playing field on which to start their lives and the opportunity to achieve their highest potential. At the follow-up Action Forum–attended by over 300 people–facilitators asked, “If all people want this, then why don’t we have it?” Participants resoundingly said that racism and poverty kept children off a level playing field and prevented their achievement.
Four task groups subsequently formed with a goal of addressing poverty and racism in Central New York. These groups would go on to influence critical public policy decisions and the provision of human services in our community. They advocated for increased funding for food stamps and support to dependent families and children. They brought attention to the lack of access to fresh, healthy foods in low-income neighborhoods. They helped facilitate the expansion of faith-based food pantries and promoted parent-child literacy programs, among other efforts.
During the second year of grant funding from the Gifford Foundation, IFW focused on addressing racism in our community. The agency developed materials, built an advisory committee, recruited and trained a diverse cadre of dialogue facilitators, and ran 23 dialogue groups the first year. Ultimately, IFW committed to holding dialogue circles on ending racism for 20 years or until 10,000 Central New Yorkers had participated in the dialogue. (See Community Wide Dialogue to End Racism).