Promoting the use of racialized collaborative conversations
Baylor ISR / Program for Collaborative Conversation & Race

What is Collaborative Conversation

This new approach is based upon an idea known as collaborative conversation. That is not a concept that is well known to many people. It is a term some academics have used to explain the type of relationships that occur in therapeutic and educational settings. Our goal is to also use it for racial settings as well.

Collaborative behavior has been defined as “purposeful interactions centered around a specific topic, as well as open and respectful exchanges that encourage participants to elaborate on previous ideas.” Thus, the idea behind collaborative conversations is the creation of an atmosphere whereby the perspectives of all parties in the conversation can be heard and understood by other parties in the conversation. The emphasis is on productive communication where individuals can build on each other’s ideas and come to some degree of understanding the perspective of others. Once parties have a solid understanding about the perceptions of others in the communication, then it becomes possible to work towards agreements that can benefit everyone involved in the ongoing communication.

When you have a misunderstanding with a friend, relative or lover then what do you do? If we want a healthy resolution, then do we not seek out a conversation where you can hear each other out and work towards a solution? Why don’t we do that to deal with racial alienation? We should and with collaborative conversations we can achieve the type of healthy resolution that has evaded us for so long.

Collaborative conversation approach is not a middle of the road path in between colorblindness and antiracism, but instead is a qualitatively new method for producing racial reconciliation in our society. Much of the conversations we generally have deal with accusations and stereotyping. Little of what is seen in today’s dialog on racial issues concerns listening to others, unless they already agree with us. Collaborative conversation will help us to see new possibilities and solutions that not only meet our needs but the needs of others.