The art of facilitation – An interview with three dialogue practitioners

What is it like to participate in a training at the Nansen Center? We had a talk with Sadhu, Nancy and Karoline who shared their thoughts and insights after attending our training in dialogue facilitation.

A PEACE WORKER, AN ASSISTANT DIRECTOR, AND A PRIEST: Three well-experienced dialoge practitioners share insights on the value of dialogue facilitation.

In a dialogue, facilitation is about creating a safe space so that people can talk to each other in an honest, open, and empathic manner. The facilitator’s role is to make sure that the participants feel respected, listened to, and valued – that their voices matter.

Nansen Center for Peace and Dialogue (NCPD) offers a dedicated training on how to facilitate dialogues. Facilitation is a skill that needs practice to develop. All trainings at the NCPD builds upon the personal stories and reflections that the participants bring to the table (or into the dialogue circle). You learn through interaction with others, and the varity of people participating, is what makes every training experience unique.

This fall we had participants from all over the world, representing countries like Sweden, Germany, Poland, Chile, Colombia, Rwanda, Nepal, and Ireland. We had a talk with three of them, who willingly shared their first thoughts after an intense week in Lillehammer, Norway.

Read more about our trainings and approach.

Sadhu Ram Tamang, peace advisor (Nepal)

Sadhu Ram Tamang is a peace advisor from Katmandu in Nepal, working for an international development organization. Since 2020, he’s been engaged in the field of dialogue, organizing activities, and building capacity for dialogue in his home country.

According to Sadhu, many conflicts in Nepal concerns access and distribution of resources like water, forests, and minerals. Politics, ideologies, and religious extremism have marked the landscape of conflicts in the country. However, things are changing. Sadhu believes that many of these issues can be addressed using the dialogue approach.  

I really enjoyed the holistic approach, not just on how to use this professionally, but also how I can use this in my own life and serve humanity as best as I can.

Sadhu Ram Tamang

– Occasionally, underlying conflicts between the Hindu and the Muslim population have flared to the surface. As a response to this, we have facilitated inter-religious dialogues in Lahan, southern Nepal. This is an ongoing process that has been well received by both the civil society and national authorities.

– On a national level, I’ve been mapping the various organizations working with dialogue and conflict transformation in Nepal. Their approaches and methods might differ, but the main goal has been to create a space where these can talk and share experiences. In 2022, this work led to the Nepal Dialogues Summit 2022. This year we are awaiting over 40 organizations to the Nepal Dialogue Summit 2023.

What was your main motivation for participating in this training?

– I wanted to sharpen, testify, and verify my own understandings. This has been a life-changing experience. I really enjoyed the holistic approach, not just on how to use this professionally, but also how I can use this in my own life and serve humanity as best as I can.

– In the case of Nepal, I believe these insights and tools can be useful to build a larger community of dialogue.

Was there anything that made a particular impact on you?

– One thing that really made an impact on me was how open all the participants were. How quickly we all gained trust and respect to each other. There was a great sense of togetherness, love and caring. I believe it has something to do with the methodology. The training is not guided by the content but rather by the flow of sharing and interaction.

– It was something very special and I will keep this in my heart and mind forever.

Karoline Faber, priest in the Church of Norway (Germany/Norway)

Karoline Faber is a Lutheran priest in the Church of Norway. She’s also managing an church dialogue center in Drammen. Originally, Karoline is from Germany, but the past 14 years she’s been living in Norway.

Karoline explains that joining the facilitation training was rather a spontaneous decision.

– I’m involved as an observer in a local dialogue forum with religious leaders. The main topic here is how to relate to life stories from people within the LGBT+ community. Recently, we had a dialogue session with Christiane from the Nansen Center. As a person who works with dialogue professionally, I was quite impressed of this approach and thought to myself: “If this method exists, I want to learn how to do this”.

The world is as it is, but there is a sparkle of hope that changes can happen when people are sharing space and gain trust to each other.

Karoline Faber

In what way do you think the Nansen method might be useful for you?

– As a priest, I meet many people across beliefs and culture. My job is also a lot about how the church interacts with the wider society. In these contexts, there are so many layers to take into consideration: Like prejudice, our faith and personal conviction. I believe that dialogue is the best way to cope with this.

How did you experience the training?

– It’s been super intense! There is a lot to take in and you are giving so much of yourself in the training. I also find it very developing that you get so much feedback from your fellow participants and the trainers. Dialogue and facilitations are crafts, and it is paramount to practice for developing your skills.

– One thing that will stick to my mind is the power of genuine meetings between humans. When people are meeting in an honest way, great things can happen. The world is as it is, but there is a sparkle of hope that changes can happen when people are sharing space and gain trust to each other.

Nancy Biwott, associate director at CMU-Africa (Kenya/Rwanda)

Originally from Kenya, Nancy Biwott works as an associate director at the Carnegie Mellon University Africa in Kigali Rwanda. She’s passionately advocating for a more inclusive equal society for all. In addition to her work at the university, the last ten years she’s been facilitating a dialogue forum that addresses various topics related to their local community – on how to include each other and live together peacefully.

What was your main motivation for participating?

– In 2021 during covid, I attended one of NCPDs digital trainings. I found the content both powerful and transformative. What I loved about it was how little it focused on grand theories, but rather its reflective and contemplating approach. I instantly knew that I wanted to dig deeper into this, and I was very happy to get selected for this training.

Amazing trainers and participants. Amazing discussions. Amazing risk-taking.

Nancy Biwott

In what way do you think the insights from the training can be applied in your work?

– There are several topics in Rwanda that can be addressed through public dialogue sessions. In the community dialogue forum, we have organized dialogues on topics like gender equality, mental health, and inclusion of people with disabilities and refugees. These talks have been valuable to reflect upon our experiences, our beliefs and how we understand each other as a community.

– In my work at the university, I also work a lot with conflicts involving students or employees. It strikes me that these conflicts are often just levels of different understandings. That’s why I find this tool and method so powerful. In the dialogue, our needs, feelings, perspectives, and ideologies are uncovered. From there, many great things can happen.

How was it for you personally to be part of this group and training?

– Throughout this week we’ve had time to reflect upon our own assumptions, understandings, and experiences in life. I loved the deepness of this training, and how much each one opened up, shared, and showed trust to each other, Nancy elaborates and concludes:

– Amazing trainers and participants. Amazing discussions. Amazing risk-taking.