Three or four years ago, I met an American in Cairo who shared a novel idea with me over dinner one evening at Cafe Riche. He wanted to use technology like Skype to connect people from different countries and cultures to share a conversation over a meal. Honestly, I was blown away with the idea.
When do we have our most honest and intimate conversations? When we’re sitting together around the table eating dinner! That’s where we build understanding and trust. Eric Maddox ran with his idea and The Virtual Dinner Guest Project was launched.
The Virtual Dinner Guest Project is a movement aimed at creating a global cultural shift in the way people view their relationship to news media, from one of passive consumption, to one of collaborative production, at the local level, and on a global scale.
I observed a virtual dinner between the Palestinians in Gaza, Palestine and the Native Americans in Oakland, CA in 2013. They sat thousands of miles apart while speaking with each other as though they were across the table from one another, asking questions, sharing answers, eating dinner in Gaza and breakfast in Oakland. Maddox writes:
Imagine if we started utilizing emerging technologies to “connect” in the ways that actually make a difference. Imagine using our “connectivity” to bring things full circle and get back to where human connections first started, back to the world’s oldest and most universal social forum… back to the dinner table, and towards a new kind of media movement.
The most recent dinners and conversations were organized this year during Ramadan, in the Virtual Iftar Project. “Iftar” is the meal that Muslims share when they break their fast at sundown. Find the Virtual Iftar Project on Facebook here.
Maddox and his team followed a path taken by many Syrian refugees in Europe. They traveled from Serbia, to Kosovo and Germany, all the way to the Netherlands. In this video (part 1 of 4) he connects people from Kosovo and Gaza over an Iftar meal. Then the participants go out into their communities and ask ordinary people questions raised by their dinner guests. The more we share their questions and answers, the more we’ll learn from each other.
I hope you’ll watch and stay connected with the Virtual Dinner Guest Project. *This* is how we build a future of security, peace, safety and understanding, not in the board rooms at the World Bank or in the shuttle diplomacy of the elite diplomats. And certainly not with our drones and bombs.