Arizona Humanities Supports Dialogue Circles Held at Youth and Peace Conference

by AnnYellott, Ph.D., Programs and Grants Coordinator, Culture of Peace Alliance

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Tucson’s  4th Annual Youth and Peace Conference was held on February  21, 2015 at Higher Ground/Wakefield, a resource center and historic school landmark that has been part of the south Tucson community since 1939. The Youth Leadership Team that took charge of key aspects of the event selected “What is Compassion?” for the title and chose workshops, speakers, and focus topics for an art show to further explore that theme. The youth also decided they wanted to end the conference with an opportunity for participants to engage in dialogue circles and consider what they had learned about compassion and how they wanted to use this information to make a positive difference in their community.

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An Opportunity Grant received by the Culture of Peace Alliance from Arizona Humanities supported two circle facilitation training classes organized for high school students and conducted by the Center for Community Dialogue at Our Family Services. A total of 24 youth were certified as circle facilitators. At the conference, ten dialogue circles were formed with 8-10 participants and a youth facilitator paired with an adult facilitator who acted as a scribe and recorded the responses to five focus questions.

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Answers to these questions revealed an increased depth of understanding about compassion and commitment to practice compassion. Responding to the question “What difference does compassion make?”, individuals shared:

It opens up a person’s heart.

It helps the community to feel safe.

It gives a sense of strength; other people will be there when you need them.

Promotes trust and happiness.

A chain reaction – less crime, less hate.

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For the question “What are you willing to do?”, responses included:

Reach out to other people more.

Avoid drama with other people.

Show love to everyone, smile.

Make others feel welcome.

Take responsibility for my anger and speak compassionately.

Show something new and encouraging to the world.

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As a follow up, another circle conversation is planned for April. Youth facilitators will again pair with adults to lead discussions intended to explore what experiences conference participants have had with the practice of compassion. For the full report from the dialogue circles or more information about Tucson’s Annual Youth & Peace Conference, you can contact the Culture of Peace Alliance (520-991-6781 or ann [at] cultureofpeacealliance [dot] org) or check out:

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