Participants in our programs learn new perspectives through communication skills-building sessions as well as experiential, outdoor, and creative play workshops and day-to-day contact with each other. The activities are designed to expose participants to seven program building blocks: identity; integration; socialization; perspective; gender lens; communication; and leadership development.
Identity: Participants are invited to deeply explore their own identities and how they inform their perceptions of cultural, religious, racial, political and other differences.
Integration: During our residential programs, participants from different communities are integrated in housing, at meals, and during all activities. This promotes the breakdown of stereotypes, and fosters the development of personal relationships.
Socialization: Participants have the opportunity to connect with each other informally during free time, as well as through structured universal activities such as music, art, dance and creative play. The relationships formed through these activities strengthen their commitment to addressing their conflicts.
Perspective: Participants gain the understanding that each individual has a unique perspective. The desire to understand another’s perspective is the foundation for creating a safe space for honest dialogue and transforming conflict.
Gender Lens: Building Bridges believes traits, characteristics, and skills traditionally associated with women, such as greater inclusiveness, compassion, empathy, and relationship and consensus-building — are essential to successful leadership for all genders.
Communication: Participants are introduced to a variety of communication techniques to help deeply understand one another’s thoughts, feelings and experiences. The communication tools are not designed to encourage participants to reach agreement on a contested issue. Rather, they help participants understand each other’s perspectives. When the goal of communication is shifted from winning to understanding, conflict itself shifts. The sense of opposing sides diminishes, and a sense of hope and possibility increases.
Leadership Development: Participants learn that listening and speaking are skills which must be cultivated and practiced, and which are crucial to effective problem solving and leadership. In addition, participants are encouraged to think about how to bring what they’ve learned back to their home communities, and are given tools in program planning and implementation to help them execute change projects in their home communities.