The University of Manitoba, Faculty of Social Work
Intergroup dialogue (IGD) (sustained group conversations guided by facilitators) aims to decrease conflict and create peace between different groups that have stereotyped each other. The focus of these IGDs has been on Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal relations.
The inspiration for the development of an IGD initiative at the University of Manitoba (UM) and within the community began during my PhD studies where we became aware of the University of Michigan Intergroup Relations (IGR) program that has been in existence for 25 years. This initiative was particularly attractive due to the strong research on effectiveness of the educational model and its sustainability within post-secondary institutions. In May 2013 two members of the IGR team traveled to Winnipeg to deliver a two-day workshop on the IGD model to 40 interested UM staff and local community members. Since that time, work has been done on several fronts to create an IGD initiative within Winnipeg.
The goal of the IGD initiative is to first create the capacity for both graduate students and community members to deliver IGDs on both the UM campus and community respectively. Since the initial workshop in May 2013, three graduate level courses have been delivered. Interested graduate students can then register in a practicum and facilitate an IGD with undergraduate students. Undergraduate students will now be granted course credit for the IGD course.
The city of Winnipeg has long struggled with the divide between its Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal citizens. This issue was highlighted in the January 22nd, 2015 MacLean’s article that claimed racism was "at its worst" in Winnipeg. This infamous label has inspired many community members to seek practical ways to address this, however practical solutions remain elusive.
Making a Difference:
Graduate students and community members have been overwhelmingly supportive of the IGD, and see the power in creating safe spaces in order to have hard conversations about racism. Several of the graduate students have been inspired to utilize their skills in delivering IGDs on campus. The newly trained community IGD facilitators are planning on continuing their involvement in IGD by establishing an IGD facilitator association within Winnipeg to help support facilitators as they deliver IGDs within the community. A follow-up meeting is planned for fall 2016 with these community members.
The most challenging aspect of IGDs has been the development of infrastructure to support the initiative. However, this challenge has been overcome by partnering with champions. Within the UM, the support of different departments and several faculties has been key in the success on campus. All of the partners have understood the need for facilitator training and work towards a sustainable initiative and all have contributed in their own way to establish the IGD within our community.
Vision for the Future:
Within the UM, negotiations are underway to continue the delivery of the IGD facilitation course and practicum opportunities for graduate students. This will allow for ongoing delivery of the IGDs for undergraduate students. The IGD initiative is supported by the UM strategic priority to create an outstanding work and learning environment and it is our vision to see the IGD initiative firmly established at the UM with infrastructure support.
The impact on participants in the IGD facilitator course/training has inspired several individuals to believe that education can be a powerful tool to address racism. Many of the graduate students plan to deliver IGD either on campus or within other contexts. The impact on the community members has been truly inspiring as demonstrated in an article in UMLearn. The majority of participants maintain contact and are excited about future opportunities to utilize their skills.
About the University of Manitoba, Faculty of Social Work:
The University of Manitoba’s mission of preserving and communicating knowledge continues to contribute to the cultural, social and economic well-being of the people of Manitoba, Canada, and the world. The vision of the Faculty of Social Work at the University of Manitoba is to help create and contribute to a world where there are no great inequalities and where diversity is celebrated.