The Goedgedacht Forum sprung from the work of the Goedgedacht Trust (www.goedgedacht.org) in the tradition of Catholic Social Teaching. At the beginning of the transition to democracy it was recognised that it was imperative to create the space for people to come together and debate with each other in an atmosphere of respect – which given the violent nature of the past had been largely absent at a national level. The values of ubuntu, the constitution and the leadership of President Mandela in promoting reconciliation and transformation through discussion were key to the understanding of what the role of the Forum was. In a country where political opinions were often expressed through violence, it was necessary to create a space for honest, open and frank debates.

In the beginning it was necessary to target the political, social and thought-leaders in society, but over time the needs of the country have changed. The Forum has widened its scope from organising debates to hosting dialogues. This was an important step as debating often involves two opposing views trying to prove a point, whereas dialogue opens up the space for listening, reflecting and valuing difference; and finding a way to work on the challenges which are common to all.

Over the years the Forum has developed and expanded the kinds of events it offers, from the traditional dialogue (starting with and informal event, an overnight stay on the Farm, one or two presentations the following day followed by a number of hours for discussion) to one-day and morning events and international conferences. The topics cover a broad variety of issues which we and others feel are important to address in order for us to create the society we dream of and which we deserve.

The fundamental aim of the Forum remains to build democracy through dialogue; to create a culture of respect, participation and accountability; and to ensure that the right people are talking about the right thing at the right time.

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