The SwedBio programme seeks to contribute to an improved dialogue culture between different actors, such as scientists, practitioners and policy makers.
In most international processes and negotiations there are, except for different views based in real differences, also knowledge gaps that have to be understood before solutions and results can be reached. To help facilitate knowledge exchange, and also co-development of knowledge, SwedBio has been co-organising several “multi-actor dialogues”, bringing together diverse actors such as UN organisations, governments, scientists, civil society – including indigenous peoples and local communities organisations – as well as private sector.
“The biggest single opportunity we have is dialogue”
These multi-actor dialogues are based on the conviction that all the participants together can craft a suite of solutions, rather than assuming there is a single answer that fits all.
This approach encourages active listening with the intention to understand each other’s viewpoints, find meaning and agreement, rather than listening to imposed positions, finding flaws and make counterarguments. It is about revealing assumptions for reevaluation.
Three distinctive features differentiate a dialogue from a discussion, when all three are present, a conversation is transformed into a dialogue [i] :
1. Equality and the absence of coercive influences
2. Listening with empathy
3. Bringing assumptions into the open
The method used for the dialogue seminars organised by SwedBio includes a thorough process with consultations and interviews regarding aim and agenda – the dialogue starts from day one in the planning process for ownership with the diverse actors involved. The inclusive planning process before a dialogue seminar and the planning of dissemination after the dialogue seminars are vitally important. The dialogues are informal seminars, or series of meetings, including their preparatory and follow up processes, with presentations from different views of an issue, and roundtable discussions involving key actors in a well-designed manner mixing between ideological and language barriers, and open space sessions where new ideas that has not come up during the planning process can get space.
The dialogues are normally held under Chatham house rule.[ii] The duration of a dialogue is 1-4 days, and has approximately 40-90 participants. Crucial elements of successful dialogues are professional facilitator/s, and that they are convened in a beautiful and relaxed environment that allows participants to get to know each other and build trust. Outreach events directed to the public can be arranged in connection to the dialogue seminar if appropriate. A background report could be produced for the dialogue if necessary, depending on the subject and if there is no suitable background material already available for the process.
A dialogue seminar is made available through a report, reflecting on the discussion without revealing the identity of the people who expressed particular ideas.