Sunday, February 21, 2010

Harm Reduction - An Invitation to Dialogue

This is an invitation to dialogue about Harm Reduction. Before I lay out the groundwork for this dialogue I’d like to provide a short introduction to the container, Voice Thread.

If you’ve never used Voice Thread please be assured that it is very easy to use. The big triangle shaped arrows located at the bottom right and left of the screen move you through the slides. There are seven slides in this Voice Thread.

Each of the slides contains some content in the form of questions. Although Voice Thread is typically seen as a visual format, often used in art education, I have purposefully not included visuals. I did this because I did not want to prime or influence the viewer. I am trying really hard not to advocate for any one perspective rather I am hoping that each visitor will share their own unique views relatively removed from my own personal agenda in this area.

The slide topics are:

1. An Invitation to Dialogue – Title Slide
2. What is your understanding of the term Harm Reduction?
3. The Good, the Bad and the Ugly – Questions about the pro’s and con’s, in your view.
4. How do you use Harm Reduction
5. Morality and Ethics
6. What else? – Add “other” stuff here.
7. Stories – An invitation to share stories about Harm Reduction

In the centre bottom of the Voice Thread screen is a button that says “comment”. When you click on this you will see options to comment by phone, voice recording, video, type or upload a prerecorded comment. I will try to include exemplars of video, audio and text and hopefully others will provide more as the thread evolves.

Please do not feel obliged to comment on all the slides or for that matter on any of them. Listening without commenting is also a form of participation. Do feel free to embed or link to this Voice Thread on your own blog or website. This application is built for sharing.

A couple of things to know about the recording options, first they start recording automatically after a few seconds, so be ready to speak. Second, you can delete and do over.

A few thoughts about Dialogue

Dialogue is a Greek term that means “flow of meaning”. It is essentially “an enquiry that surfaces ideas, perceptions and understanding that people do not have already” Issacs, 1999, p. 2). In this Voice Thread, the invitation is to dialogue and to take part in a process of enquiry.

There are four important processes and abilities that dialogue perpetuates. The first is to evoke people’s genuine voices. This means both speaking your own voice and encouraging others to do the same. This invitation is to add your genuine and authentic voice.

The second is to listen deeply. Really listening is hard work, most of us don’t listen really well. Instead we hear and while hearing think about what we want to say in response.

The third equally difficult ability is to genuinely respect others. This, for some, involves adopting the belief that there is coherence to all views. My friend Jane Katz uses the phrase “That makes perfect sense based on what you have experienced” in a program she teaches on managing emotions. Respect is about privileging all voices, not just the ones that sound like our own.

The fourth involves suspending that which we are certain of. If we want to expand our own perspective, to make it larger, more able to encompass the whole, we may have to un-attach ourselves from our truth for a period of time. To achieve dialogue requires integrating these four practices.

In my mind the practice of dialogue is similar to the activity of Rhizomatic Education or Community as Curriculum as put forth by Dave Cormier (n.d.).

A rhizome is type of root defined as being a “horizontal, usually underground stem that often sends out roots and shoots from its nodes” (Rhizome, n.d.). I have adapted Dave’s suggested Rhizomatic premises below as a possible foundation of understanding for this process.

1. Experts do not create knowledge; it is co-created by individuals through dialogue and reflection. (Reflection being an internal dialogue)
2. Those facilitating the process suggest the context and create any needed scaffolding to contain the issue, which I have attempted with the questions on the slides.
3. We all have our own resources and our own unique experiences to draw on.
4. Collaborative, community led processes allows us to be more creative with our combined knowledge.

These ideas are not yet fully formed in my own mind so any feedback on them would be welcome. Right now I am seeing the questions on the slides as being like the nodes on a rhizome. I can easily shift to seeing each person being a node however.

So, again, welcome and let the dialogue begin…


Cormier, D, (n.d.) Dave’s Educational Blog. Community as Curriculum – A Research Project. Retrieved February 20, 2010, from

Issacs, W (1999). Dialogic Leadership [Electronic version]. The Systems Thinker, 10(1)

Rhizome - definition from accessed February 20, 2010

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