During the time of the renaissance and following, small groups of people would often assemble in a home or other informal setting to dialogue about issues of the day in what were called “salons.” The conversations is this type of setting (dialogue) are unique because participants act as authentic peers. Dialogue is driven by genuine curiosity and respect rather than by power. Everyone’s ideas are valued equally, and everyone makes a point to listen to others’ perspectives. The premise is that creative thinking can emerge when genuine empathetic listening, respect for all participants, safety, peer relationships, suspending judgment, sincere inquiry, courageous speech, and discovering and disclosing assumptions work together to guide conversations. It is an activity of curiosity, cooperation, creativity, discovery, and learning rather than persuasion, competition, fear, and conflict. Effective dialogue depends upon trusting relationships.
Charter Partners Institute and its founder, Todd Welch, are hosting a series of salons in the Lehigh Valley region of Pennsylvania. Our focus is how to make the Lehigh Valley a region that thrives on innovation in the 21st Century, with attention initially to the role of education in this mission. We are inviting diverse groups that include everyone from senior community leaders to younger entrepreneurs and creative leaders, to pioneering educators, to students. The goals are to:
- Learn more about the barriers and opportunities from a wide range of perspectives,
- Develop creative new ideas that might make a difference, particularly those not likely to emerge from any of the traditional institutions and programs, and
- Get more people thinking about the opportunities and what could be accomplished (a constituency for change).
We recognize that community change is very difficult. It really cannot happen until the participants develop a common vision of what the future could be that many are motivated to support. We expect the salons to help develop that vision and commitment over time. While the salons themselves have no official planning agenda, we also expect that participants in a position to take action will be motivated and empowered to do so by the salon experience and the trusting relationships that build among the participants.
We invite you to check out our experience and how it is evolving. Just click on the “Salon” tab above and select any of the subtabs to review a specific topics related to the salons. Feel free to contact us if you have questions or suggestions.