History leaves scars.
So does culture.
So do most other social forces that act on us from outside. Religion, education, economics, and so on.
These forces leave their scars passed down through generations, along cultural, gender, religious or national lines. We bear scars from the experiences of others: the experiences of our ancestors, the experiences of our peers. While most of these scars are not ours, we still bear them.
And so we build walls to help protect ourselves from being scarred again by those things that were suffered by those others.
But in the end all these walls do is create and maintain separation. In this disconnected state we arm ourselves with weapons of self-righteousness, intimidation, propaganda, mistrust, insecurity and fear that often lead to weapons of war.
We have built such walls around our houses, our neighbourhoods, our countries. But the most powerful and the most dangerous, are the ones we have built around our hearts.
To reinforce and strengthen our walls we then often declare them our ‘moralities’ our ‘practicalities’ and our ‘ideologies’ and then label those on the other side with words like “heathen”, “bigot”, “idiot”, “illiterate”, “barbarian”, “fanatic”, “traitor”, “weakling” and so on.
We all bear these scars and so we all build such walls.
But is it really our nature to live in this way: in fear and separation? Is it really our nature to survive behind these invisible walls?
Or is it our nature to seek how we can live in openness, in connection, in love and in compassion?
Are we just here to survive or are we here to thrive?
The Conversation Initiative believes that most of these walls no longer serve us, and don’t really protect us. We believe that in exploring our inner vulnerabilities, we begin to understand where they came from which allows us to bring them down one by one and in so doing we begin to connect with greater openness to ourselves, our traditions and values. With this greater openness we are then more able to reach out to those on the other side. In this process we discover what connects us rather than differentiates us and how we can make each other feel safe so that we can work together rather than against one another.
In this way we can learn to thrive.
All of us. Together.
This is what we at The Conversation Initiative Foundation aim to do
We are a non-profit organisation wanting to help bring down the walls that we build around our hearts and that keep us apart. We do this by helping people share vulnerable, heartfelt truths about themselves without the judgment of others. In this they begin to feel that they are not alone in this world and a real understanding develops across all sorts of divides.
To speak your truth from a heartfelt, vulnerable place and to listen to someone else openly and compassionately without a rush to prejudice is to discover beauty in oneself and in the other and to form real connection,
Which then allows us to find ways to build a better world together .
We strive for a world free of the deep seated walls we have unconsciously built within us and between us, with the knowledge that in so doing we can move forward with greater togetherness and in greater peace with one another.
Our mission is to help people engage in a new form of communication, one rooted in a genuine connection to one's own vulnerable yet heartfelt feelings.
From such a space, an openness flows. There is no defensiveness, there is no blame, there is only what is: the genuine feelings that are deep deep inside. This shifts the speaker's relationship to these feelings, to their truth, to themselves, which ultimately allows them to shift their relationship to the world.
Hearing such openness, also shifts something in the listener too. Because the listener is not blamed, not judged, they don't need to maintain their defensiveness, so they begin to open more fully to the story being shared. In doing this, in witnessing the vulnerability of the speaker while feeling their defensiveness drop, they find themselves opening to their own feelings and the possibility of exploring their own vulnerabilities. without the worry of how others would judge them.
These shifts in either the speaker or listener or even both create the opportunity to bring down a wall that may have previously divided them. Allowing them to connect in a very different way.
We undertake this mission in two synergistic ways:
Firstly, we create safe shared spaces for conversations to explore our deep vulnerabilities. People may explore their vulnerabilities wherever they like, but our spaces are facilitated and focused making them safe and allowing for the exploration to be deep.
Secondly, conversations that move us or our participants within those spaces are, with permission, shared onto public platforms so that others can begin to hear and feel the true power of this sort of communication and what it does to them. We leverage state of the art technology to do this so that the stories are available widely and delivered in as vulnerable and as engaging and moving a manner as possible.
With the sharing of these stories, we encourage and attract more diverse and other views into our spaces, to share their stories, and so our community of connected diversity grows…..
The infinity sign in our logo represents this: an ever growing cycle from speaker to listener spreading compassion and understanding. It only takes one to change a relationship. It only takes one to change the world. The speaker shifts his connection to his feelings. This opens a space for the listener to shift his relationship to his. Should the listener now communicate to another in this way, he will shift in that listener their connection to theirs. And so it goes.
To achieve we have developed several offerings.
Our technology exposes people to the power of genuine heartfelt communication and the empowerment that comes with it, Our workshops help people on how to communicate (both express and listen) in this way.
And we have developed a process called a Dialogue Circle to help people be truly empowered via their communication: allowing them to share their truly vulnerable and heartfelt stories in a way that creates understanding, and empathy.
All of this is currently offered in both German and English.
We facilitate what we call Dialogue Circles. Participants in a circle can share their stories of vulnerability with the others in the group in this safe space and the others will be encouraged to share theirs as well. The facilitator helps the story-teller let go of their need to control, judge or censor the outcomes so that they can share anything in as honest and heartfelt a way as possible. Spaces in which groups of diverse people are safe, supported and accepted.
Many of the things explored in this vulnerable way are things that might normally be seen as intriguing, unexpected, alarming perhaps even disturbing or frightening. When they are allowed to be expressed, heard and examined in this safe, open and unjudged way, they become acknowledged and better understood both by listeners and speakers. This can lead to profound realisations and changes for all involved and the lead to building of connection rather than division.
The stories we make available in our technological applications are taken from our dialogue circles. When a story within a circle moves us, we ask for permission to share it. If permission is granted we record the story and make it available on one or both of the platforms. This is essentially how our library of stories grows.
We have developed two digital platforms for users to hear vulnerable, heartfelt stories that we have shared from our Dialogue Circles.
The first is an accurate, 3D representation of a city we call 3D stories. It can be accessed from laptop or desktop. Users can “walk around” and visit various sites where they can hear stories either directly or thematically associated with those sites.
The second is our Talking Tour application accessible on mobile devices. The app will guide users on a tour of a city directing them to key sites where they will also be able to hear stories.
Both of these give users first-hand experience of what it is like to listen to this sort of communication: how it can move you in unexpected ways, gently shifting how you relate to the world as well as your long-held beliefs about yourself and others.
Communicating truthfully in a genuinely heartfelt way from a place of vulnerability is not our standard way of doing so. For this reason, we offer workshops to help participants
communicate in such a manner. We provide the tools to do so and coaching on doing it. We help participants with this particularly in contexts where things like dispute, mistrust, power and powerlessness can arise.
Some of the topics we offer workshops in include
Speaking our Deeply Felt Truth
Diversity and Communication in Business
Sex, Gender, Religion, Culture, Race: the Difficult Topics
We are Neighbours
Gender: Equality or intimacy
We offer workshops both in German and in English. Workshops are regularly available in Berlin as well as online. They can also be arranged by anyone with us in any location as long as they can meet a minimum delegate requirement.
We feel that our work can be especially powerful for young people today. This is important because these young people will be our leaders tomorrow.
Young Adult Offerings
Many of our workshop have been designed specifically with young adults in mind, particularly focusing on issues we know are very significant for them at the moment. These topics include as examples our workshops on Business Communication, Better Relationships, and Diversity.
We have also developed a program for high schools. It begins with the Talking Tour of Berlin as a possible school excursion. The excursion is modified slightly from the general tour offering to include content relevant specifically to school learners.
This is followed by an integration workshop to help learners understand and integrate what they have learned. We will help them not only process the insights gained from the stories heard on the tour, but also provide them with an introduction to vulnerable, heartfelt communication as a new way to communicate.
Schools that wish to take the learning opportunity even further can sign up for our weekly online modules.
The stories will cover a wide range of topics including diversity, gender, race, history, arts, culture and so on.
The Conversation Initiative Foundation was formed in 2018 and is in the process of becoming a non-profit organization.
Our aim is to take the conversation to all, no matter their nationality, economic status, religion, race, cultural background, sexual orientation, political affiliation and so on….
To achieve this global footprint we have purposefully founded the foundation in the Netherlands for its relative neutrality.
We seek to be both financially self-sustaining and affordable to all. We realise that not all regions have the same wealth: that in some parts of the world a cost of just €1.00 can exclude up to 80% of the population. So, our financial model is to use the funds earned from our various projects in wealthier regions to fund access to our work in poorer ones.
Our focus is to see how we can best re-connect divided communities so as to safeguard the future, both theirs and ours. This will involve looking at how to bring down the walls of the past that are still having an effect as well as in regions with present-day, escalating conflict, the collecting and sharing of stories of personal vulnerabilities from opposing sides in such a way that it shows humanity from all sides, bringing greater compassion and understanding, and assisting in the dissolving their walls so that they can find their commonalities rather than differences.