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Changing Our Consciousness
Imagining the emotional experience of the other


Waging Dialogue


Emotional Imprint


The mission of COC is closely aligned with that of the Hot Stove Project The Hot Stove Project

The Hot Stove Project

Why Do We Have War and What Can Our Generation Do About It? Conversations with Dr. Vamık D. Volkan and Lord John Alderdice

View the transcript of the Volkan video in PDF

CHANGING OUR CONSCIOUSNESS is a non-profit organization that develops theoretical, methodological and educational tools to understand and mitigate intergroup conflict. By developing emotional literacy – the capacity to view the world through others' eyes – we facilitate dialogue between people of different thoughts, beliefs and communication styles, counter prejudice and stigma, and transform education.

Become part of the next innovation in human understanding.


Our video, Why Do We Have War & What Can Our Generation Do About It? includes "A Conversation with Dr. Vamık D. Volkan" and "A Conversation with Lord John Alderdice." These were filmed in January 2014, and September 2015, with young people associated with the Emotional Imprint program. Dr. Volkan is a five-time Nobel Peace Prize nominee who has led mediation efforts on the world stage and Lord Alderdice negotiated the Belfast Agreement in Northern Ireland. Both are globally renowned for their work on the dynamics of prejudice, ethnic conflict, and the forces that lead to war."

Talking Across Divides (aka The Paper Airplane Project): Invitation to Participate

Do you avoid friends who belong to different political parties? Do you hide their posts? Unfriend them? Barrage them with memes advertising your candidate? Post lots of cat pictures?

Does anyone ever change as a result of these efforts?

We can’t communicate effectively across ideological divides, can we?

Over the course of the next six months, COC will host an online research project dedicated to exploring this problem. Here’s how it works:

In the coming weeks, participants will tell their Facebook friends (or any other email group) that they will be participating in a project that involves talking across ideological divides in cyberspace. The American election will bring a certain kind of us-vs-them dynamic to the surface, but any controversial topic would be fine. Religion, women’s issues, mental heath issues, education, and parenting issues are some of the topics that participants will be discussing. Most participants are from the USA, but others are from Russia, Pakistan, Switzerland, the UK, and India.

Facilitators will have their own point of view, but the goal will be to catalyze dialogue – to be curious about other perspectives and the humanity and lived experience of the people who believe them. Facilitators will post with some regularity, in a way that makes it safe for people who differ to talk to, rather than at, about, or against each other.

Powerful emotions will inevitably arise, but if we can humanize each other, understanding and empathy may deepen over time. Perhaps new perspectives and creative solutions will arise.

Or perhaps not. If they don’t, that’s important to explore as well.

In a separate, closed page, participants will share difficulties that arise as they attempt to facilitate the process. We will explore what works and what doesn’t, and consider whether some generalizations can be made that we can write about in a paper later in the year – one that will eventually reach and be helpful to the new American Congress.

I subtitle it The Paper Airplane Project because I often talk about Human Understanding being as difficult, as necessary, and as possible, as Rocket Science. But since we don’t yet have a theory or methodology for Human Rocket Science, all we can hope to do at this point is design “paper airplanes.” They’ll crash and burn pretty quickly or maybe not fly at all, but we will learn much from the attempt.

Please question, challenge, and/or share this post on your page or with other friends who might be interested. I’m Alice Lombardo Maher on Facebook, or

Read more, from Dr. Alice Maher and others, at the Changing Our Consciousness blog >>