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Experiments in Story and Dialogue

Over the last few months I’ve been working on an experiment: at a time when the national discourse in America seems polarized, how can we bring together people from across the political spectrum and spark deeper dialogue?

My main tool for sparking deeper dialogue has been storytelling, i.e. using the process of story coaching to surface values, and story telling to help others, with different perspectives, to see and hold them.

In August I held my first event, featuring five activists from Boston-Area Tea Party groups who volunteered to step up and share stories focused not on their politics, but rather their values and the life experiences that helped shape them. This Thursday we’re holding our second event and will be bringing together, on one stage, supporters of Occupy Boston, the Tea Party, and the GOP.

At this stage our events are less of a fixed process and more of an experimental laboratory of dialogue and story. I’m still in the process of understanding what it is that we’re creating, and what value it creates and for whom. And I’m hopeful that this will be a good learning opportunity for me and those involved, and if we’re lucky contribute to the intention of bringing together communities at a time when they seem to be divided.

For info on Thursday’s event, check out our Facebook event page. For updates / future announcements / blog posts specifically related to this initiative (The Mantle Project), please sign up for the mailing list at Thanks.

Recent Entries

Tunisia’s Road to Democracy

As Tunisia celebrates a historic democratic election, its emerging political parties have learned that overcoming decades of authoritarian rule requires starting small, and slowly building trust. This summer we followed one of Tunisia’s emerging political parties – Afek Tounes – as it journeyed into the city that sparked the Arab Spring, and learned this lesson first-hand. Created in collaboration with Jonathan Schienberg and Rabiî Kalboussi.

Tunisia’s Emerging Information Society

From streetsweepers to rappers to activist bloggers my TunisiaLive colleague Asma Ghribi and I hit the streets of Tunis to get peoples’ perspectives on Tunisia’s new information freedoms.

Citizen Storytelling

How do we enable people to tell their stories while preserving values such as freedom of information and privacy? I joined others in sharing our thoughts to promote the Citizen Media competition organized by Ashoka and Google. Their editors created this neat video.


she channels the earth
her skin petrified wood
born into a marbled texture of sound and dust
her hair the parched twine of a tumbleweed
spread across the floor, picked up and reassembled
like a wispy broom lying in front of a clay Berber house

and as her song comes forth she channels the spirits of old desert women
teeth clenched against the bitter residue of a headscarf
taut against a wide solid head
her back twisted, aching
spinal vertebrae atrophying
in a sudden sclerosis of history

the nameless women who have walked the streets of
Tamerza, Tozeur, Medenine
dipped in music, encased in light
and placed on an airy mantle in Carthage

A (poetry) review of Neyssatou‘s performance at Creative Commons’ “Sharing The Spring” concert in Carthage Tunisia.

A CEO In The Medina

On Friday a delegation of American executives, led by General Electric CEO Jeffrey Immelt, traveled to Tunisia to explore investment opportunities. What’s driving this high profile interest in Tunisia by powerful American executives? I attended the delegation’s press conference at the US Embassy in Tunis to find out, and created the following podcast for TunisiaLive. To listen, click the icon below:

An Inside Look Into Ben Ali’s Trial

On Monday I joined the TunisiaLive team for an inside look at the trial of deposed Tunisian President Ben Ali, whose 23-year authoritarian rule came to an end on January 14. As both a correspondent and as a Tunisian citizen I feel lucky to have had the opportunity to tell a story about this remarkable day.

MIT CoLab Radio: A Libyan in Tunis – One Refugee’s Story

As posted on MIT CoLab Radio, my interview with a Libyan refugee. Click below to view.