Since its inception in 2004, the Hollings Center has held 30 Dialogue Conferences, hosting over 600 participants from almost 50 countries. Additionally, the Hollings Center has awarded over $200,000 to previous participants to fund more than 25 small grants, establishing networks with hundreds of additional stakeholders. Read on to hear about our history of success:

Our dialogues bring together a diverse group of participants to touch on under-served topics, building networks and promoting cross-cultural understanding

Read below for examples of how Hollings Center programs build networks and lead to new understandings:

  • Our dialogue on “Afghan-U.S. Relations: Development, Investment and Cultural Exchange” brought together an unlikely pair: a Bosnian-American who heads a scholarship organization for Bosnians and a trainer from Afghanistan’s National Solidarity Program, who does outreach to rural villages in Afghanistan. Following the dialogue, three Afghans trained four Bosnians on formulating a nation-wide rural development program.
  • Mardin-Artuklu-UniversityFollowing our conference on “Oral History in the Middle East and Central Asia,” several participants followed the dialogue by holding a workshop at Mardin Artuklu University. The event, “Oral History in Mardin: Developing Practice, Sharing Experience,” assembled a young Afghan scholar, a seasoned archivist, and director of a world-class oral history center with local oral historians, academics and students. These discussions promoted the use of oral history in Mardin and contributed to research undertaken to develop guidelines for the use of oral history in conflict resolution.
  • A recent Hollings Center conference connected a group of female entrepreneurs from Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan and Afghanistan who were eager to share their experiences and difficulties of running a woman-led business in Central Asia. One participant from Tajikistan invited others to attend and speak at an annual symposium on women in business, expanding the impact of the dialogue outcomes.

 

Small grants amplify the reach of dialogue conferences and produce creative, interesting outputs

Hollings Center Small Grant projects are innovative and wide reaching. Here are some examples:

  • Two documentary filmmakers, a Palestinian and Egyptian living in New York and Los Angeles respectively, won a small grant to expand their animated documentary Sawt. Sawt, meaning “voice” in Arabic, is an oral narrative and animation documentary project highlighting the experiences of female activists in the 2011 Egyptian Revolution and their role in the nation’s dramatic transition to democracy. With the grant, the grantees were able to go back on the Egyptian street one year after the revolution, this time talking to women about the 2012 presidential election.
  • A Hollings Center small grant supported the exploration of an exchange program between Concordia College in the United States and Independent University in Bangladesh (IUB). The grant resulted in several agreements for collaboration between the two universities beyond the original idea for a student exchange program. These partnerships included a research agreement to advance an asthma study between professors from each university, a detailed exchange and study abroad agreement and the possibility for Concordia faculty and students to use other field research facilities at IUB.

What our participants have to say about us

There is no doubt that the Hollings Center methodology is effective. A recent survey of past Hollings Center participants showed that over 90% of respondents are highly satisfied with the strength of the format and the quality of the discussion. Almost all participants responding to the survey report continued contact with their fellow dialogue participants. Hear directly from participants themselves what they have to say about our programs:

“I am heartened to see dedication of people around the world on these issues because they can seem overwhelming. The sincerity of participants is clear. The organizers showed respect for the voices of committed people of faith, which is sometimes not found in purely policy circles.”

Participant of “Challenging Extremist Ideology, Propaganda, and Messaging,” April 2015

“The overall experience of hearing perspectives of professionals with different backgrounds was very insightful in providing a holistic approach to the issue.”

Participant of “Bridging the Disconnect Between Education and the Economy,” February 2015

“This event provided an excellent combination of expertise, perspectives, and national experiences. I feel lucky to have participated in an event where the discussion was high quality, wide ranging and respectful.”

Participant of “High and Dry: Addressing the Middle East Water Challenge,” May 2014

“It is very rare to leave a meeting on Afghanistan with a sense of optimism and excitement about what is possible and to feel that those of us outside the formal policymaking process may be able to make a real difference.  You and your staff created a safe and inviting atmosphere, and I think many meaningful connections were made or reaffirmed as a result.”

Participant of “The Future of Afghan-U.S. Relations: Development, Investment, and Cultural Exchange,” May 2011

“I found the discussions at the Conference to be extremely rewarding. For me, the event sparked new thinking, outside of the usual patterns. This speaks to the intellectual ambition in the selection of the topic, which required the participants to stretch outside of the regular categories, including comparing and contrasting two regions not often discussed together. The notable diversity and breadth of experience among the participants were also an important factor. Clearly a lot of thought went into their selection. Finally, the event was designed well. The discussions were permitted to evolve over the course of each session and the three days. This open approach encouraged continued, active engagement by the participants for the entirety of the event.”

Participant of “Competing Mediation in the Middle East and Central Asia,” October 2012

“We’re closer to each other than we think. It’s good and helpful to understand each other in a moderated environment. I’m impressed by the caliber of participants; particularly the Iraqis who give me hope once some of them are in positions of power.”

Participant of “Iraq’s Foreign Policy and Economic Challenges,” February 2013

“At my work, I cooperate and communicate more with government officials than civil society, private sector and academics. So it was a new experience for me to meet such a group consisting of people who have difference backgrounds but all with plenty of experience and vision. Thank you.”

Participant of “Central Asia’s Regional Challenges,” October 2013

“The Hollings Center for International Dialogue is a refreshing departure from the typical Washington, DC based institute: it keeps a very low profile and regularly accomplishes exactly what it has set out to do (surprise!). The Center’s mission is to encourage dialogue between the United States and Muslim populations across the world, and it does so by organizing small, private roundtables… [that] inculcate a sense of honesty and modesty among the participants that most international panels or conferences fail to capture.”

J. Edward Conway, past participant and small grant recipient