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School of Social Work

Intergroup Dialogues Initiative

IGD education is core to the School's strategy for cultural diversity education. IGDs are sustained, face-to-face meetings between members of different social identity groups with a history of conflict or potential conflict. Dialogue among diverse group members, aided by a semi-structured group format and trained peer co-facilitators, constitutes the major mechanism through which students learn about each other's group and individual histories and experiences, acquire skills to challenge stereotypes and misinformation, explore and understand sources of intergroup conflict, and identify ways to address institutional and individual forms of discrimination. IGDs are aimed at increasing participants' capacity to grasp the structural causes of intergroup conflict, detect and challenge demeaning and destructive intergroup processes and relations, and communicate and participate effectively in cross-cultural groups. The IGD education model was created at the University of Michigan in the early 1990s and is now being applied at Stanford University, Arizona State University, and the Universities of Washington, Michigan, Massachusetts, and Illinois (Urbana-Champaign).

Since 1996, with grants from the Council on Social Work Education's Millennium Project and the UW Provost Office's Cultural and Ethnic Diversity Initiative, the UW School of Social Work faculty has developed, refined and intensively evaluated IGD curriculum for the BASW social work program. This comprised the first effort to apply the IGD model to a social work curriculum, and remains the only program of IGD education for undergraduate social work students. The School's initiative has been pioneering, contributing to IGD development through systematizing peer facilitator training methods and manuals, developing IGD curriculum content, and initiating multi-method evaluations of IGD curriculum innovations.

Our experience over the past three years suggests that mounting effective IGD curricula is extremely labor intensive, requiring the development of a trained cohort of co-facilitators as well as establishing mechanisms to support and supervise facilitators during the course. At the same time, our preliminary success in launching IGDs within the BASW curriculum—coupled with promising evaluation findings from University of Michigan and the first three years of implementation—has attracted the attention of a growing number of academic units/programs both within and outside of the UW, as well as numerous community-based agencies and representatives of public school systems. The School has received numerous requests for assistance in adapting our IGD curriculum to the educational needs of other academic units and programs and human service agencies.

To meet these needs, the School will use unit-specific University Initiative Fund to establish an ongoing IGD Training and Resource Institute at the School of Social Work. Establishing the Institute would allow us to accomplish two vital tasks with substantial economy of scale:

  1. Institutionalize ongoing training and support for student co-facilitators and faculty who teach IGD curriculum at the School; and
  2. Create a mechanism for the School to extend IGD education opportunities to other units/programs within the UW and to community agencies, groups and public schools.

The Institute will be staffed by a quarter-time Director (Professor Nagda), a part-time administrative assistant, and several faculty consultants (varying according to the Institute's yearly priorities).

Contact: Nancy Hooyman
Dean, School of Social Work
Allocation: $22,100
Date Funded: February 2000