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The 1st NAEF believes that facilitated dialogue, with local people at the heart of the situation, is essential for building successful cross-cultural understanding and engagement, particularly in a conflict or crisis context. People can learn a lot about the nuances of another culture from active participation in focused two-way dialogues. 

We developed our Learning Through Dialogue Initiative (LTDI) to prepare the minds of key personnel due to be deployed to conflict or crisis zones with tailored, fit-for-purpose facilitated dialogues - for proper operational situational awareness and pre-deployment relationship building. On-the-ground participants will also be better equipped in interacting with foreign assistance personnel.


What is learning through dialogue?

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Learning Through Dialogue is an innovative and intensive cross-cultural, facilitated video, dialogue initiative from The 1st NAEF.

It is specifically designed to help course participants – particularly military, aid organisation, NGO, and diplomatic personnel – to engage with local populations in global conflict or near-conflict zones, in order to help them successfully perform their duties with confidence. It also benefits on-the-ground participants with greater cross-cultural awareness and understanding.

We also work with students and members of civil society to foster better mutual understanding. 

Our facilitated video dialogues are customized to individual needs, facilitated by experienced trainers, and conducted with carefully selected local participants on-the-ground in places of interest.


why was learning through dialogue created?

Civilians, diplomats, aid organization staff, and military personnel being deployed to conflict, near conflict, or crisis response zones are often not adequately prepared to engage with the local population – and vice versa

This results in increased vulnerability to misunderstanding and risks for both parties

Key issues include:

• Lack of knowledge for people who really need it

• Lack of communication skills for specific areas

• Negative or inaccurate preconceived notions or mind-sets 

Learning Through Dialogue aims to address avoidable communications failures and gaps resulting from a lack of appropriate cross-cultural awareness and understanding. LTDI will enable course participants to adequately engage with locals and perform their duties with confidence and mutual respect.

“Learning Through Dialogue was formed to address avoidable cross-cultural communications gaps for personnel being deployed to conflict or near-conflict areas. Our facilitated video dialogues don’t just promote greater mutual understanding between people of different cultures – they foster stronger cross-cultural communication and engagement for practical purposes.” 

– Whitman Davis, Program Director


our values

  • Collaboration: Working closely with facilitators, domestic and international dialogue partners, and course participants to initiate conversations that matter.

  • Preparedness: Using facilitated dialogues to give participants the confidence, skills and knowledge necessary to communicate and engage effectively with others in conflict, near-conflict, and crisis zones.

  • Openness: Fostering open, honest and safe exchanges amongst participants of different cultures.


our work

We understand and address cross-cultural communication challenges and success factors. 

We aim to prepare the minds of key personnel due to be deployed to conflict, near-conflict or crisis zones – as well as members of civil society and university students – by promoting mutual understanding among cultures and fostering greater cross-cultural engagement. 

LTDI includes:

  • Facilitated video dialogues to prepare the minds of key personnel in conflict and crisis zones. A customized multi-session program of facilitated cross-cultural video dialogues, with carefully selected participants on-the-ground in target locations. 

  • Bespoke country engagement reports highlighting key findings from dialogues.

  • Academic research studies into cross-cultural engagement for peace-building, disaster recovery, and stability operations.


our difference

Learning Through Dialogue is the only cross-cultural learning initiative which offers a customized, comprehensive, true-life, interactive, and potentially life-saving program. 

The biggest difference between LTDI and other dialogue programs is that we build greater cross-cultural understanding and engagement from facilitating a higher quality of dialogue for participants who really need it. This is made possible by the following factors:

  1. Quality of facilitators. Our facilitators are experienced trainers who have worked in military, security, stability, and humanitarian aid operations.

  2. Quality of participants. We can access insightful and knowledgeable on-the-ground participants because we have well-established international networks in place. The utilization of video communications technology gives us a broader reach than face-to-face dialogues.

  3. Quality of insights. Our programs are tailored to individual requirements, resulting in focused dialogues excel by generating highly relevant, current insights.

  4. Quality of real-world applications. We are focused on strengthening cross-cultural communication skills, competency, and knowledge in participants to support operational situational awareness and pre-deployment relationship building in a practical way.


our projects

We have recently completed two sets of intensive and constructive cross-cultural video dialogues: 

  • US military officer cadets + Kurdish Iraqi students - Summer/Autumn 2018

    The sessions gave the military cadets the opportunity to understand conflict, civic life and peace-building in a post-conflict zone (Kurdistan Region of Iraq) before completing their training. The dialogues also gave Kurdish students the opportunity to engage with US military cadets, and to gain an understanding and appreciation of the human aspects of the US military.

  • Afghan civil society + Kurdish Iraqi university students - Spring 2018

    We brought together university participants from separate regions, sharing unique and surprising cultural aspects. Additionally, both regions have witnessed longterm foreign military presence which has differed greatly.


dialogue participants

The following people would benefit most from participating in our cross-cultural facilitated video dialogues:

  • Local and national populations: They gain valuable insights and effective communication skills for engaging with foreign assistance personnel across international civilian and military organisations.

  • Members of international organizations, such as NATO and the UN: They gain an in-depth understanding of different cultures, and the real-life experiences and expectations of the local population, without needing to be on-the-ground.

  • Enrollees in military academies and cadet programs: They develop stronger cross-cultural understanding and awareness before being assigned to their permanent military units.

  • Diplomats, soldiers, peace-keepers, police, first responders (fire, ambulance, search-and-rescue, earthquake recovery), aid workers, and NGO staff due to be deployed to conflict, near conflict and crisis zones. They gain adequate cross-cultural communication skills, competency, and local knowledge to help them anticipate and address challenges, engage with the local population, and successfully perform their duties while deployed.

  • Members of civil society: They gain realistic cross-cultural understanding and increased global social cohesion.

  • University students: They gain an enhanced understanding of peer groups in other cultures.


key benefits for participants

Our dialogues give participants the confidence, knowledge, and ability to successfully perform their duties on-the-ground in conflict zones, regardless of profession – whether they are soldiers, peacekeepers, doctors, aid workers, diplomats, NGO staff, or civilian support staff. Local and national populations are also key beneficiaries. 

Key post-dialogue gains include: 

  • Providing appropriate knowledge and support for people who really need it – such as more through operational situational awareness and pre-deployment relationship building

  • Developing adequate communication skills for specific areas

  • Time-sensitivity benefit: Being prepared to hit the ground running, rather than spending first couple of months in-country learning local nuances 

  • Addressing inaccurate preconceptions and mind-sets


our team // contact us

Whitman Davis

Program Director - LTDI

Whitman is responsible for dialogue partnerships, network and relationship building, marketing, and business development.

Whitman is an international public relations and communications consultant, with in-country experience in media, education, the energy industry, international trade and development, and corporate social responsibility in North America, Europe and the Middle East. He has worked on research projects assessing the potential social impact of energy projects in Iraq. Additionally, he worked in humanitarian aid, for youth empowerment projects and consulted the local government in the region.

Whitman holds a Masters degree in Advanced International Studies from the Diplomatic Academy of Vienna.


Ian Bradbury

Program Liaison - LTDI

Ian is responsible for military and defense industry liaison for the program.

Ian has 20 years’ experience in defense, security and critical infrastructure protection, from serving in the armed forces and from working with leading defense and security bodies and agencies. He has also worked on numerous humanitarian and stability operations projects internationally. He founded The 1st NAEF to bridge gaps in 21st century humanitarian response and stability operations, and formed VSERT to address crucial gaps relating to global and national energy security.  

Ian sits as a NATO adviser for stability policing concept development under the NATO Center of Excellence.