Online Open to PFC members and initiative partners

Facilitated Dialogue Sessions in a Polarized World

10 June - 3 July 2024 / Registration Closed


Open to up to 75 leaders (executive leadership, board) of PFC members and initiative partners


These Facilitated Dialogue Sessions are part of PFC’s broader initiative, Towards Collaboration and Growth: Productive Dialogue in a Polarized World.

Initiative Overview

In the context of our increasingly polarized world, including growing Anti-Semitism, Islamophobia, and Anti-Arab and Anti-Palestinian hate in Canada, and the recent increase in violence in Israel and Palestine, PFC has engaged experts to support the development of a member-driven initiative we’re calling Towards Collaboration and Growth: Productive Dialogue in a Polarized World.

This initiative does not seek to change minds, debate, or tone police. The intention is to nurture learning and help us practice how to engage with one another in our own communities and contexts, when we disagree – and when we’re experiencing high tension and polarization – so that we can foster understanding and generate ideas and solutions towards moving forward together.

About the Facilitated Dialogue Sessions Series 

The series’ core aim is to create an intentional and safer environment for leaders from PFC members and initiative partners to engage in meaningful discussions on the impact of polarization and discrimination, concerns about sector reactions and responses, aspirations for change, and the community’s collective role during this time.

The series emphasizes empowering voices, fostering learning and empathy, and promoting effective communication skills, especially during moments of disagreement, high tension, and polarization. Our hope is that reducing perceived risks associated with such discussions will encourage diverse perspectives and promote respectful and inclusive conversations.        

The facilitated dialogue series has been designed with a cohort experience in mind (executive leadership, board) of PFC members and initiative partners. A cohort will allow the group to build on discussions from each session and will promote trust-building between all participants. Registration for all four dates is required.  

It is strongly recommended that the cohort also attend the two pre-dialogue online information sessions, as they will help set the stage for the dialogue series. The initiative’s Navigating the Legal Landscape and Storytelling with Empathy information sessions (scheduled for May 28 and June 5), along with the facilitated dialogues, will help foster engagement.

Dialogue Preparation

Preparing the cohort for the dialogue will take place in a virtual 1-hour session. The information covered will include setting the stage for dialogue (what is it, what to expect/not expect), designing an alliance for effective engagement, and discussing physiological responses to difficult conversations and strategies/tools to support participants in remaining engaged.

Dialogue Structure

The dialogue sessions will follow a flexible structure, where each session focuses on a broad theme, such as: impact, concerns, and forward-looking perspectives. These thematic areas have arisen from discussions with PFC and through the network needs assessment, and will serve as a guiding framework.

Participants will have an opportunity to engage in discussions on these themes through both large-group and small-group formats. It’s important to highlight that while these themes provide structure, the dialogues remain iterative and adaptable to evolving information and insights.

Theme 1: Personal and Professional Impact
Under the theme of impact, participants will have the opportunity to openly discuss personal and professional experiences related to increasing polarization, Anti-Semitism, Islamophobia, and Anti-Arab and Anti-Palestinian hate, as well as other forms of systemic racism in Canada (such as those facing Indigenous Peoples and Black communities). It will be important to acknowledge the impact of organizations’ statements, power imbalances, and silencing, all of which speak to the broader impact experienced by the communities served by philanthropic organizations.

Theme 2: Concerns about Sector Reactions and Responses
Through PFC’s needs assessment carried out in the development of this program, there were concerns raised regarding the sector’s response to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict when compared to the response of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, highlighting, for some, a disconcerting double standard. Understanding the nuances and reasons behind these differing responses will provide valuable insights into the underlying complexities that have contributed to divisions. Furthermore, concerns were raised about discrimination in various areas, including events, speaker selections, and funding withdrawals and cancellations. These instances are contradictory to the sector’s commitment to equity, diversity, and inclusion standards and objectives. A broader theme of discussion emerged concerning the role of social media in perpetuating polarization and the threat posed to democracy within Canada.

Theme 3: Aspirations for Change and Philanthropy’s Collective Role
Philanthropy’s role in addressing concerns and preventing divisions has generated considerable interest. During the needs assessment, many emphasized that encouraging respectful discussions on sensitive topics like Israel-Palestine can counter polarization, highlighting the value of collective engagement. Desired outcomes from the initiative include valuing the dialogue process, de-risking dialogue for respectful disagreements, hearing diverse perspectives, learning de-escalation techniques, gaining community insights, and navigating how to strengthen the sector collaboratively.

Psychosocial Support

Taking into consideration the topics being addressed, the individualized impact on participants, and the ongoing nature of the conflict, two certified trauma-informed support professionals from the Trauma Resource Institute will be present during the dialogues. Having psychosocial support present contributes significantly to establishing a safer environment for engaging in challenging conversations that may activate or trigger participants. If a participant requires assistance, they will have the option to connect directly and privately with a professional for real-time support.

Facilitators and experts supporting these sessions

Important Note: We acknowledge that the topics explored in the initiative are highly contentious, deeply personal, and understandably sensitive. Many communities in Canada and around the world are polarized, emotions are high, and tensions are strong. We will do everything we can to build trust and create a space where people feel they can be open and honest, but we recognize not everyone will feel safe entering this space. We will always ask prospective participants to consider their own position, wellbeing, personal experience, and capacity before deciding if and how to participate. For those not currently in a place where they can engage in respectful dialogue, we hope the resource list we have generated can be of support during this time and in the future.

Depending on the expressed needs of registrants, sessions may be offered in EN with FR interpretation and/or EN and FR only break-out groups.

When? Dates and time

  • Pre-session: Monday, June 10 – 4:30-5:30 PM AT / 3:30-4:30 PM ET / 1:30-2:30 PM MT / 12:30-1:30 PM PT  
  • Session 1: Tuesday, June 11 – 12-6 PM AT / 11 AM-5 PM ET / 9 AM-3 PM MT / 8 AM-2 PM PT  
  • Session 2: Wednesday, June 12 – 12-6 PM AT / 11 AM-5 PM ET / 9 AM-3 PM MT / 8 AM-2 PM PT  
  • Session 3: Wednesday, July 3 – 12-6 PM AT / 11 AM-5 PM ET / 9 AM-3 PM MT / 8 AM-2 PM PT  

How? Registration

  • Registration for all four sessions is required for participation.
  • Please click here to register for all sessions.    

Our Partners

PFC is grateful for the engagement and financial support of our initiative partners  

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