• Hands Across the Hills

Dialogue Across Divides: New Three-Day Training


Learn the skills to bridge the partisan and ideological divisions that threaten our democracy. Hands Across the Hills has developed an intensive, three-day, in-person training program that will make it possible for people from communities across the country to learn these critical dialogue skills.

  • When: October 9, 10, and 11, 2021 (holiday weekend). Training will begin on Saturday, October 9 at 9am and end late afternoon on Monday, October 11.

  • Where: Leverett, Massachusetts

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

How to Apply 

Apply online at http://bit.ly/hath-dialogue-across-divides-application.

Applications are due July 1. Applicants will be notified by the second half of July. To secure your place in the training, 50% tuition deposit will be due August 1, with remainder due September 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

  • Negotiate and defuse intercultural and interpersonal tensions

  • Collaborate, learn, and cultivate common ground across political, regional, racial, ethnic, gender, sexuality, and class 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

What Makes This Training Unique?

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

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

  • You will learn by doing — participating in dialogues and other experiences together; reflecting on what you’ve done and learned; and drawing lessons from the experiences you’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 their 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

  • Transportation: Participants are responsible for transportation to and from Leverett. Pick up from Bradley International Airport (BDL) in Hartford CT is available with advance notice.

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

  • Attend in pairs if possible: Given the time and work involved in starting a dialogue-across-divides project, we encourage participants to attend in pairs—with someone from your community or another community you want to work with. Together, you’ll get hands-on experience in planning and creating a powerful and culturally sensitive experience. You are, however, welcome either with a partner or solo. 

  • Application process: See below for details. Selection criteria will include demonstrated experience, clarity of goals and purpose, and diverse representation.

  • Covid 19: We are planning this event assuming Covid 19 will be under control by October 2021, and that we can meet safely in person. All participants must be fully vaccinated. We will observe any state and local protocols that may be in effect (masks, distancing, etc.).

Leadership Team

L-R: Paula Green, Ben Fink, Gwen Johnson

  • Paula Green, principal instructor, is the founder of the Karuna Center for Peacebuilding and Professor Emerita at the School for International Training Graduate Institute. Paula has decades of global and local experience as a psychologist, peace educator, facilitator, and mentor in the field of intergroup relations and conflict transformation. She was named by the Dalai Lama as an “Unsung Hero of Compassion.” For more information, visit www.paulagreen.net.

  • Ben Fink, principal 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). 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.

  • Gwen Johnson, instructor and advisor, is founder of Black Sheep Bakery and Catering, a social enterprise that trains and employs formerly incarcerated neighbors in the coal camp of Hemphill, Kentucky, who are working to overcome addiction. She is also a board member of the Hemphill Community Center, which helped lead the effort to build the largest community-led solar energy project in East Kentucky.

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