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Negotiation and Conflict Resolution Webinar: Improv for Democracy—How to Bridge Differences and Develop the Skills Our World Most Needs

A remarkable number of programs seeking to bridge differences between citizens have emerged around the world.

Many of these initiatives have drawn from a field that may at first seem to have little to do with such work: improvisational theater. From its roots in comedy, improvisational training has helped people become more confident and responsive with others, creative in generating ideas, and skillful in working with the unexpected. Building on existing efforts to promote dialogue, peace-building, and more, improvisation is now also being used for everything from building literacy skills in disadvantaged schools to improving relationships between police and civilians, with a recognition that this type of intervention trains people to listen to and learn from one another in a way that promotes empathy and understanding. Based on Don Waisanen’s forthcoming book, this webinar highlights how improvisation can provide a foundational education in democratic practices. Waisanen will offer a framework of ideas and practices for using improvisation to help citizens bridge differences and develop the communication, leadership, and civic skills our world most needs. Challenging audiences to embed and scale improvisation as a philosophy and set of concrete teachings and trainings that can affect the level of societies, this project shows how to use a novel, unconventional approach for improvising our way into better social worlds.


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About the Speaker

Don Waisanen is an Associate Professor in the Baruch College, CUNY Marxe School of Public and International Affairs, where he teaches courses and workshops in public communication—including executive speech training, communication strategy, and seminars on leadership/management and improvisation. All his research projects seek to understand how communication works to promote or hinder the force of citizens’ voices. Previously, Don was a Coro Fellow and worked in broadcast journalism, as a speechwriter, and on political campaigns. He is the founder of Communication Upward, an adjunct lecturer at Columbia University and New York University, and received a Ph.D. in Communication from the University of Southern California’s Annenberg School. In his spare time, he’s been an improvisational comedian at theaters in Los Angeles and New York City over the past two decades.