Wellesley Civil Discourse Initiative
The Wellesley Civil Discourse Initiative (WCDI) is a volunteer-led effort that brings community members together for small group dialogues in an atmosphere of respect and trust. This initiative aims to strengthen community connections and address the increasingly divisive tone of public discourse by creating a constructive environment for discussing important local issues through carefully planned dialogues with trained community facilitators.
This form of dialogue is intended to build relationships and increase understanding rather than reach agreement or consensus. It differs from other daily conversations in that people come to a dialogue to understand views that are different from their own, and to learn about the beliefs, values, assumptions, and experiences that have shaped those views. These dialogues follow a specific format, intended to foster a respectful atmosphere. Each dialogue group determines a set of agreements about how they will communicate during the dialogue.
Facilitators are volunteers who have been trained in Reflective Structured Dialogue by Essential Partners of Cambridge, Massachusetts, which has provided guidance and expertise since the inception of this initiative in 2020.
For more detail on the initiative and past programs, please see the WCDI Project Summary.
All Wellesley Civil Discourse events are free. This initiative is made possible by funds granted from the R.W. Babson Fund by the Wellesley Select Board; the Massachusetts Interlocal Insurance Association (MIIA); the Community Fund for Wellesley; as well as staff support from the Town of Wellesley.
Wellesley Civil Discourse Initiative programs are public conversations that address important issues facing the community. The facilitated dialogues aim to be open and inclusive, lead to greater understanding, stronger connections, and lay the groundwork for broader engagement in decision-making.
Since WCDI was started in 2020, more than 250 individuals have participated in at least one of four dialogues, a webinar, or facilitator training. Past dialogues have covered coping with COVID-19; personal and community values; education; and race. A summary of past programs is available here.
The diverse team of trained facilitators draws from both Town staff and community members, and is led by a rotating planning team. Members of the current planning team are: Dave Cohen, Leda Eizenberg, Marjorie Freiman, Will Griffin, Deed McCollum, and Lise Olney.