How Intergroup Dialogue Creates Social Change | Pollack Peacebuilding Systems

June 24, 2020by Natalie Davis

Summary of:

Nagda, B. R. A. (2019). Intergroup dialogue: Engaging difference for social change leadership development. Special Issue: Centering Dialogue in Leadership Development, 2019(163), 29-46. 

Background & Theory

This article discusses why intergroup dialogue (IDG) is particularly effective at cultivating a safe learning environment to teach and encourage students to become better and more qualified leaders for social change. It reviews the methods of IDG and what qualities it encourages in students, and how higher education professionals can implement it.

Research Questions

The author addresses the following questions: 

  1. What is intergroup dialogue, and why does it play such an important role in social change leadership development?
  2. How is IDG taught most effectively to encourage proper social change leadership?


The author answers his research questions by walking the reader through the context/meaning/purpose of social change leadership and intergroup dialogue (IDG). He explains the components needed for successful IDG that lead to discussion/perspective sharing and grappling with real-life issues (especially focused on identity, diversity, inclusion, and equality). He also analyzes recent research on IDG, social change leadership, and diversity through a higher education lens, and further discusses how IDG has been successfully taught and instilled. Nagda reviews praxis learning principles and how they apply to IDG, as well as examples of activities surrounding social change leadership that are successful through praxis-based teaching. 


The results show that intergroup dialogue (IDG) is a critical component to raising and forming successful social change leaders, given the key role that sociocultural conversations have been shown to have under the social change model of leadership development (SCM). Many students are shown to be lacking praxis learning, which is a key component to becoming a genuine social change leader. Praxis learning encourages deeper dialogue and understanding of oneself and others, which in turn has been shown to bring students together and develop skills in ways that reading from a textbook would not. Through IDG, students learn to listen to one another, discuss their own identities and perspectives, and overcome diverse issues together — all of which encourage a leader who has solid ethical principles and cares about social change in all its forms. Students also develop critical skills necessary for any leader.

What This Means

  • Intergroup dialogue (IDG) is a very important part of developing leaders. While the context of this article focuses on social change leadership, the skills and conversations that occur through IDG are important for any leader to have.
  • Not only for leaders, but for a better society, should we encourage IDG in learning settings. It’s quite important for us all to have a better understanding of our own values, others’ values, and how we can all be socially responsible.
  • IDG is a useful tool to fight against conflict. While some conflict may arise through IDG, the pros far outweigh the cons; many walk away from IDG with a greater understanding of diverse issues and others’ perspectives, which inherently help to reduce future conflict. 

Final Takeaway

For consultants: Encourage intergroup dialogue where appropriate; it may help bridge the gap where needed and bring unwilling participants to walk away with a different perspective and greater willingness to resolve the issues at hand.

For everyone: The value of learning more about yourself and others is endless; it will allow you to have a greater understanding and care of the world around you, with an added bonus of less likelihood for conflict.

Natalie Davis

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