Program Overview, Schedule,

and Guidelines

8th Conference on

Engaging The Other:

The Power of Compassion

April 13-15, 2018 ~ Madison, Wisconsin USA


Content and Outcomes


Co-Sponsored by:
Common Bond Institute (CBI),
Edgewood College,
International Humanistic Psychology Association (IHPA)

Supported by:
Michigan State University

Endorsed by:
Over 100 professional associations, universities, and organizations internationally

Official Partner of:
Charter for Compassion,  and  Parliament of World's Religions

Intent and Description of Program Components:

Intent and Description of 3-day Program

The ETO Conference focuses on the process of how we engage and communicate with each other on critical issues and concerns, to promote awareness and understanding of:

  • common core needs and intentions,
  • differences in the ways we think are best to meet those common needs and intentions,
  • and possibilities for moving beyond “us and them” belief systems - that paint negative stereotypes and assume harmful intentions of each other - to build common ground, mutual support, and collaboration in better working toward shared goals.

The program is designed to be cooperative and highly participatory, and those attending are encouraged to lend their ears and voices as active contributors. Although the program includes a limited number of pre-determined topics through round table discussions, the remainder of the content, and the success of the conference, is a function of who is present and how much input they provide.

Since it is meant to be a working process that builds over the 3 days toward applying accumulated learning beyond the event, participants are asked to be present throughout the conference.


Components of the program include:

1) Topical Round Tables:
In keeping with the character of the conference, round tables are intended to be more of an interactive dialogue between experienced round table members - rather than a series of separate mini-presentations.

 A typical format is to begin with brief comments by each member for stimulating thinking, followed by a discussion among these members, and then extending the dialogue out to include the full audience for a portion of the session to encourage a wider, more inclusive discussion. This process is guided and facilitated by a moderator to ensure opportunities for multiple voices to be heard, that the focus is maintained, and to keep things on track in terms of time.

2) World Cafe':
A simple, effective, and flexible format for hosting large group dialogue in small group formats. It involves groups of 4 or 5 people who engage in a series of 20 minute dialogues. At the end of twenty minutes, each member of the group moves to a different new table. They may or may not choose to leave one person as the “table host” for the next round, who welcomes the next group and briefly fills them in on what happened in the previous round.

Each round of 20 minutes is prefaced with a question to respond to in focusing the dialogue.

After the final round of small groups insights, topics, or other results from these conversations is shared with the rest of the large group and reflected visually on a projected screen. This material is included with other data collected from round tables, all-conference dialogues, polling, the Networking Hub, etc., and used to select from in determining topics for dialogue breakout groups the next day.

3) Topical Dialogue Break-out Groups:
These facilitated sessions are organized by topic areas selected through information gathered during the conference from participants and observation by the conference team. They are intended for delving further into the topic, exploring emerging issues, and processing the conference experience.

Dialogue groups are valued as brainstorm generators and essential resources for experiencing deep and respectful listening, finding common ground, and clarifying intentions as the conference moves toward action planning for how to most effectively accomplish mutual intentions.

Scribes are present in each group to summarize discussion,  questions, and issues raised in bullet points for posting in the Resource and Networking Hub, and on-line through the Common Bond Institute website. In this way as the conference progresses members of other simultaneous break-out groups have opportunities to stop by the Hub or log into CBI's website to stay informed and up to date on what else is being discussed among other groups, and promote a more fully informed learning community.

4) Action Planning Break-out Groups:
The final day is devoted to bringing the conference experience and learning together for brainstorming practical applications, action planning, collaboration building, and developing mechanisms for continuing networking opportunities that support follow-through with action plans. Outcomes can also be shared with other like-purposed events occurring locally or nationally to promote building on each others energy and accomplishments for a wider and more sustained impact.

5) Resource and Networking HUB:
A designated space in the main traffic area of the conference where participants can regularly and conveniently pass by to view increasing information and shared learning being periodically posted on what is occurring and brewing in the conference community as it evolves. Examples include brief summaries of breakout group content, places for participants to suggest topics and issues emerging over the 3 days, invitations for cooperation and continuing dialogue for people to sign on for, information on other like-purposed initiatives, events, and organizations, as well as logistics such as updates on any program or schedule changes. A conversation space is also available for those wishing to connect between conference sessions.

The Hub is monitored to gather content for data that helps inform selecting topics for break-out dialogue groups, and for action planning and next steps beyond the conference.

6) Live 2-way virtual links:
In addition to on-site round table members, to expand the size and reach of the conferences key contributors to these round tables participate virtually.

Topical Round Tables and Facilitation

Round table members include:
Amanda Katheryn Roman, Bonnie Carroll, John Steiner, Pearce Godwin, Farha Abbasi, Joan Blades, Barbara Simonetti, Jacob Hess, Myron Eshowsky, Steve Olweean, Eric Upchurch,  Manu Meel, Dorian Tellis, Paris Thompson, Yesenia Villalpando-Torres, Fabiola Hamdan, Lydia Hester


* Round tables are meant to focus on exploring the “how” of increasing understanding and appreciation of differing perspectives and honest concerns, rather than attempting to present a "position" or "solve" a complicated issue in 90 minutes. We do this through practicing and promoting an inclusive, productive dialogue, and in this way begin laying the ground work for what can best lead toward exploring new, innovative, and collaborative possibilities for co-creating effective solutions.
Beginning questions are offered to help begin the conversation, but are not meant to limit them.


Topical Round Tables: *


1)  Friday April 13,  4:30 - 6:00 pm

“How Do We Talk Together About: Building Cooperation Across Divides?"

The tone of public discourse within and between communities around differing and strongly held beliefs and perspectives has been deteriorating in recent years. Whether in political, social, cultural, economic or other areas that significantly impact our daily lives, negative assumptions and fears about each other’s character, intent, and goals are increasingly being stoked and undermining productive efforts to address the compelling issues of our day. Many are deeply concerned that an inability to engage constructively with respect across ideological divides is fueling increasing hostility and animosity, damaging our social structure, and weakening our democracy.

The good news is much is also happening through a surge of innovative grass roots civic engagement initiatives all over the country offering practical and viable alternatives to this polarized scenario. Through developing processes and mechanisms for deepening listening, sharing, and respect between those with differing ideologies about how to go about meeting common needs and intents, these initiatives are not only building bridges but changing and invigorating hearts and minds. This round table brings together a diverse pool of leading practitioners from some of these efforts to share their personal perspectives, experiences, and insights.

Beginning Questions:
1) What are the challenges, struggles, lessons learned, and rewards in this work?

2) How can shared understanding and appreciation of these open opportunities for avoiding negative assumptions and images of each other, and instead promote mutual support, social cohesion, and belonging to a larger “we?”

Amanda Katheryn Roman, John Steiner, Joan Blades, Pearce Godwin, Barbara Simonetti
Moderator: Steve Olweean


2 Saturday April 14,  9:30 - 11:00 am

" How Do We Talk Together About: Violence and Safety in Public Spaces? "

Over recent years and months we are witnessing rising grassroots civic movements emerging organically as rapidly growing groundswells across the country and globe, many among groups often marginalized or viewed as lacking power. Increasingly these movements are youth organized and led.
If viewed as unrelated phenomenon or compared in contrast to each other as opposing movements, what is missed is seeing a larger picture where recognized commonalities in fundamental needs and goals, and fresh perspectives, can outweigh initial differences in approach. Such a perspective presents unique opportunities for finding common ground on even hot button issues, and civic solidarity in creating collaborative solutions that work for all.

Violence and safety in public spaces, including schools, is an immediate example of a hot button issue with starkly different and opposing approaches to addressing it. This round table focuses on exploring the “how” of increasing understanding and appreciation of differing perspectives and honest concerns through practicing and promoting more of an inclusive, productive national dialogue that can best lead to understanding new and innovative possibilities for co-creating effective solutions.

Beginning Questions:

1) What are the personal needs, values, concerns, and desired reassurances involved on each side of this issue?

2) How can shared understanding and appreciation of these open opportunities for avoiding negative assumptions and images of each other, and instead promote mutual support, social cohesion, and belonging to a larger “we?”

Eric Upchurch, Manu Meel, Dorian Tellis, Paris Thompson, Lydia Hester, Myron Eshowsky
Moderator: Amanda Katheryn Roman

3)  Saturday April 14,  1:00 - 2:30 pm

" How Do We Talk Together About: Immigration, Cultural Diversity, and Practical Measures For Healing Negative Stereotypes That Divide?

The vast majority of Americans can trace their family roots to immigration as an intimately shared experience in becoming “Americans.” Being a heterogeneous “mixing bowl” of cultures, races, religions, and many other identities has been a fundamental, core principle and historical strength in the American narrative. Along the way we as a society have strived toward honoring this ideal, and in those cases where we have fallen short have struggled with learning from them.
At a time when there are no simple or exclusively valid experiences and perspectives, what is needed is a deep and compassionate listening and being listened to about the dreams, hopes, concerns, and fears of both newcomers and those who came before.

Beginning Questions:
1) What are the needs, challenges, and struggles of new immigrants?
2) What are the needs, challenges, and struggles of communities receiving them?
3) How can shared understanding and appreciation of these open opportunities for avoiding negative assumptions and images of each other, and instead promote mutual support, social cohesion, and belonging to a larger “we?”

Bonnie Carroll, Farha Abbasi, Jacob Hess, Yesenia Villalpando-Torres, Fabiola Hamdan
Moderator: Steve Olweean


Dialogue Group Facilitators Include:

Amanda Katheryn Roman, Heather Sattler, Sharon Lerman, Wade Fransson, Dorian Tellis, Paris Thompson, Joyce Allen, Sebastian Lewis

Program Schedule Outline:

2018 ETO Program Schedule


Friday, April 13

3:00 - 4:00 pm:   *On-Site Registration & Check-in
4:00 - 4:30 pm:     Conference Opening
4:30 - 6:00 pm:     Session A - Interactive Round Table 1
6:30 - 7:45 pm:     Session B - World Cafe Dialogues
7:45 -  8:30 pm:    Session C - Plenary Processing session


Saturday, April 14

9:30 - 11:00 am:    Session D - Interactive Round Table 2
11:15 - 12:00 pm:   Session E - Break-out Dialogue Groups
12:00 - 1:00 pm:    Networking Lunch Break
1:00 -  2:30 pm:     Session F - Interactive Round Table 3
2:45 -  4:00 pm:     Session G - Break-out Dialogue Groups
4:00 -  5:00 pm:    Session H - Plenary Processing session


Sunday, April 15

 9:30 -  10:00 am:   Session I - Check-in
10:00 - 11:30 am:    Session J - Break-out Action Planning Groups
11:30 -  12:45 pm:    Session K - All Conference Action Planning
12:45 -   1:00 pm:   Conference Closing Farewell

Guidelines For Compassionate Dialogue:

Guidelines For Compassionate Dialogue
Common Bond Institute conferences strive to promote an inclusive, compassionate dialogue that honors different personal experiences, perspectives, and narratives, while allowing for better expressing and listening to each other as we work together toward understanding and harmony. Our intention is to create an open venue where we can engage meaningfully and invite in a public dialogue that brings our joint wisdom to bear in exploring sometimes difficult issues that effect us all. This is based on the premise that it does not require that we be the same to be appreciate of, at peace with, and secure in our relationships with each other; only that we be familiar enough with each others story to share the humanity and trustworthiness that resides in each of us.
We ask all participants to assist us by carrying and expressing this intent throughout the conference.

NonViolent Communication Guidelines: (Adapted from Marshall Rosenberg)

Unique Assumptions - NVC begins by assuming that we are all compassionate by nature and that violent strategies-whether verbal or physical-are learned behaviors taught and supported by the prevailing culture. It also assumes that we all share the same, basic human needs, and that all actions are a strategy to meet one or more of these needs.

While NVC is much more than a communication model, the components below provide a structural concept of the process that leads to giving and receiving from the heart.

Honestly Expressing how I am and what I would like without using blame, criticism or demands

Empathically Receiving how another is and what he/she would like without hearing blame, criticism or demands

Whether expressing or receiving, NVC focuses our attention on four pieces of information:

Observations-Objectively describing what is going on without using evaluation, moralistic judgment, interpretation or diagnosis
Feelings-Saying how you feel (emotions and body sensations) about what you have observed without assigning blame
Needs-The basic human needs that are or not being met and are the source of feelings
Requests-Clear request for actions that can meet needs



CLICK HERE to help us offer this conference free to all by making a tax deductible contribution through our partner, International Humanistic Psychology Association, a 501(c)3 federal nonprofit organization at:


Help us offer this conference free to all
by making a tax deductible contribution through our partner, International Humanistic Psychology Association,
a 501(c)3 federal nonprofit organization at: