Utrecht in Dialoog
Utrecht in Dialoog explores the tangible impact of dialogue that occurs on the individual level, within the local communities and in the collaboration between residents and community workers. In spring 2020, at the height of the first wave of the corona pandemic, three students from the MA Intercultural Communications fulfilled their internship requirement by doing community-based research with Utrecht in Dialoog (UiD).
Role of intercultural competence in practice
The students evaluated how UiD, online because of corona restrictions, worked to enhanced a sense of societal belonging and inclusion. They looked at the role of intercultural competence in the practice of UiD’s trained dialogue facilitators. What contributed to bridging differences and establishing meaningful conversation between residents of Utrecht from different backgrounds? The students worked closely with Martijn Bool and Wilma de Buck from UiD, and were supported in their process by CBR coach Berteke Waaldijk and their individual academic supervisors.
Overall, the project demonstrated that the value of online dialogues was recognized and appreciated by dialogue participants, and that the UiD dialogue facilitators possess well-developed intercultural competence. In general, dialogue facilitators listen carefully to participants' experiences and let participants finish their thoughts. The participants feel heard and are motivated to share their own stories during the dialogues.
Taking personal angle on the project
Each student took a unique, personal angle on the project. Jedidjah Arend explored how cultural differences can be bridged through online dinner dialogues. Can eating together and talking about food connect people, even online? Jedidjah organized an online dinner dialogue for which everyone brought their own plate of food. Lisa Mulder investigated how dialogue can strengthen community and used dialogue meetings and interviews and focus groups and dialogue meetings in her study. Josephine Timmer studied the intercultural competence of dialogue facilitators. It turned out that the dialogue facilitators effectively use interculturally competent behaviours.
The coronavirus crisis creates extra challenges for fulfilling UiD's aim of creating of inclusive local communities and stimulating dialogue in some of Utrecht’s neighbourhoods and districts (North East, Leidsche Rijn and Lunetten/Zuid). Moreover, the inclusion of underrepresented groups into the initiative as well as the realization of the ambassador programme requires further attention.
On the basis of the identified challenges and proposed recommendations, UiD plans to give priority to the following in 2021:
- Facilitate more informal and more accessible forms of online meetings in order to involve the societal groups which are less likely to enter a dialogue online
- Disseminate knowledge about dialogue competencies more widely among partners in the form of online workshops, training sessions and, if possible, a dialogue course for belonging and inclusion in a broad sense
- Include underrepresented groups in the organization and build up an inclusive network of ambassadors within these groups