Civil Dialogue in the Public Arena:

An interactive introduction to civil dialogue practices

During this workshop, that will begin at 2:30pm on Wednesday April 11 and will conclude by 11:15am on Thursday April 12, participants will have the opportunity to explore the important practices of civil dialogue that can help shape conversations on difficult issues into productive exchanges.  This hands-on workshop will introduce participants to the basics of civil dialogue convening, facilitation, and moving to action.  Participants will have the opportunity to experience and practice some of the processes and skills needed to help lead effective dialogues.  Specifically, participants will:

  • Examine how civil dialogue efforts fit within the Cooperative Extension Service mission and the important work of community capacity building
  • Explore methods for naming and framing issues of local importance
  • Discover processes to help foster engagement from a diverse group
  • Participate in a miniature dialogue process
  • Practice facilitation skills guided by an experienced coach


Rachel Welborn is the Program Manager for the Southern Rural Development Center, which serves the 13 Southeastern states.  She has devoted over fifteen years to helping communities face difficult community issues through a combination of facilitation, strategic planning, education, and grant writing.  Her current responsibilities fall within the realms of fostering civic engagement, facilitating regional planning initiatives, and strengthening capacity of communities around challenging issues such as poverty.   She co-authored Turning the Tide on Poverty, a community-based civic dialogue process, and is serving on the national leadership team for the Stronger Economies Together program.  She is also chairing the Extension Committee on Policy and Operations team exploring Civil Dialogue on Race Relations.  Welborn is certified with the International Association for Public Participation.

Gwendolyn Poindexter Whiting is The Director of Training and Leadership Development for Everyday Democracy.  Her work began with Everyday Democracy (formerly Study Circles Resource Center) in the late 90’s as a Senior Associate working around the country assisting communities in organizing, facilitation of community conversations and action planning.  She specializes in facilitation, mediation, cross cultural conflict resolution and change management coaching. She spent 3 years working on the Church Burning Response Team as a Conciliation Specialist with the Department of Justice, Community Relations Service.  For 15 years she worked as an international training consultant for USAID missions certifying Foreign Service officers and local employees as contracting and agreement officer representatives. Her consultant work has taken her to five of the seven continents and more than 50 countries including Iraq, Afghanistan, Thailand, Ukraine, Nepal, Egypt and South Africa. Much of her consulting work has focused on addressing issues of equity (race, gender, socio-economic), particularly in marginalized communities. Her educational background includes a B.S. in Education and Masters in Public Administration from Virginia Commonwealth University, Richmond, VA.  She also spent two years of doctoral studies in conflict analysis and resolution at George Mason University, Fairfax, VA.