• Hands Across the Hills

Dialogue Across Divides: April 27-29 training announced!


Learn the skills to bridge the cultural, partisan, and ideological divisions that lead us to dehumanize each other and threaten our democracy. Hands Across the Hills has developed an intensive, three-day, in-person training program in dialogue facilitation and cultural organizing, which will make it possible for people from communities across the country to learn these critical skills. to work together across seemingly-insurmountable divides.


When: Thursday-Saturday, April 27, 28, and 29, 2023. Training will begin on Thursday, April 27 at 12 noon and end on Saturday, April 29 at 8pm.

  • Where: Leverett, Massachusetts (near Amherst)

  • Tuition: $750 per person. Limited scholarship support is available.


How to Apply

Apply online at http://bit.ly/hath-dialogue-across-divides-application. Applications are due November 21. Applicants will be notified by December 1. To secure your place in the training, 50% tuition deposit will be due December 15, with the remainder due February 1. If you have questions, please email us at handsacrossthehills@gmail.com.


After completing this highly interactive, professionally-led program, you will be able to:

  • Facilitate dialogues where everyone’s perspective counts, everyone’s worth is recognized, and everyone is challenged to learn and grow

  • Organize groups of participants for long-term collaboration across political and cultural barriers

  • Create skillful questions and prompts

  • Build strong one-to-one and group relationships

  • Manage and defuse intercultural and interpersonal tensions

  • Collaborate, learn, and cultivate common ground across identity and ideological divides

  • Integrate art, music, theater, and storytelling into dialogue and organizing work

  • Develop meaningful day-long or weekend-long agendas that include dialogue sessions and collaborative work, plus informal and social time

  • Launch a plan to organize and start a project in your own communities and organizations


What Makes This Training Unique?

  • Our leadership team focuses on building understanding, trust, and long-term collaboration across differences, tackling challenging and controversial issues, and discovering and working from common ground in ways that make all of us and our communities stronger.

  • The weekend offers a full immersion in the Hands Across the Hills experience. It takes place in the region where Hands Across the Hills began, and it includes working and learning with members of Hands Across the Hills from Massachusetts and Kentucky.

  • We will learn by doing — participating in dialogues and other experiences together; reflecting on what we’ve done and learned; and drawing lessons from the experiences we’ve shared with colleagues during the three-day session.

  • You’ll return home with training materials that cover key weekend topics plus related tools and resources.

  • The training team and other Hands Across the Hills members will be available following the training program as coaches and mentors. Participants will be invited to take part in follow-up meetings and events to continue supporting and learning from colleagues.

  • Participants will be joining a growing national movement to create an inclusive and caring society that includes hundreds of local and regional groups across the country.

More Program Details

  • The trainings will be held at Mt. Toby Friends Meeting House, Route 63, in Leverett, MA, near Amherst. Transportation: Participants are responsible for transportation to and from Leverett. Pick up from Bradley International Airport (BDL) in Hartford CT may be available with advance notice.

  • Lodging and food: A limited number of Hands Across the Hills participants and friends have offered to host program participants at no charge. Additional lodging can be reserved at area motels. Tuition will include most meals as well as snacks.

  • Selection criteria for applicants will include demonstrated experience, clarity of goals and purpose, capacity to apply what you learn in your community/organization, and diverse representation. We will give priority to applicants who apply with partners, or are working as part of an organization or institution that supports their work doing dialogue across divides, as we have found this work is most effectively accomplished in the company of others.

  • Covid 19: We are planning this event assuming Covid 19 will remain sufficiently under control so that we can meet safely in person. We request that participants be fully vaccinated and up to date on boosters; please contact us if you have concerns about meeting that request. We ask that all participants test negative prior to arrival at the start of the training; we will have tests for those who need them. We will observe all federal, state, and local protocols, and we will set group protocols together (e.g. masking) based on everyone’s comfort level.

Leadership Team

  • Ben Fink, principal co-instructor, is the founding organizer of the national multiracial coalition Performing Our Future performingourfuture.com and the Letcher County Culture Hub network in the coalfields of East Kentucky letcherculture.org. In addition to helping found and facilitate Hands Across the Hills, Ben has also helped build grassroots-led alliances through storytelling, organizing, music, and theater in Baltimore, Milwaukee, rural Alabama and Wisconsin, and the de-industrialized Naugatuck Valley of Connecticut.

  • Johanna Solomon, principal co-instructor, is Assistant Professor in the School of Peace & Conflict Studies at Kent State University https://www.kent.edu/spcs/johanna-solomon-0. Her research and practice focuses on community building around issues of identity in conflict and peace-building, including significant work on the Israeli Palestinian conflict and political, racial, and religious tensions in the United States.

  • The training will also include several other members of Hands Across the Hills from Kentucky and Massachusetts, with years of experience leading, organizing, and participating in dialogue across divides.


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