Transforming MIT into a Listening Campus

The MIT Center for Constructive Communication (CCC) is leading realtalk@MIT, an ambitious campus-wide effort that combines the ancient wisdoms of human conversation with emerging digital technologies. Through realtalk@MIT, MIT stands committed to ensuring that the many stories of our diverse community will be heard – and respected – as an important step toward building a culture of listening and shared understanding.

The goal is to initially engage students – and then the broader MIT community – in small-group, trusted conversations that promote a culture of respectful dialogue where we all can share our personal experiences across boundaries in the hope of building trust and ensuring that no one set of voices is raised over another.

realtalk@MIT Undergrad Conversation Program

When: August 29th “Day of Dialogue”
Who: 1,100 first-year students and approximately 100 undergraduate “conversation leaders”
What: small-group facilitated, recorded in-person conversations, ongoing games, other interactive events and installations.

CCC is currently designing a program to help first-year undergraduates come to know and understand their class/classmates in a unique way. Launched as a smaller pilot program in the spring of 2022, realtalk@MIT is being expanded in the fall of 2024 to more broadly foster a culture of dialogue, listening, and connection across the MIT undergraduate student body.

The goal of the program is to help students build “civic muscle” by hosting and participating in authentic conversations, active listening and sensemaking. RealTalk@MIT also aims to create opportunities for MIT leadership to actively listen to students- with their consent-and incorporate community voices into its decision-making processes.

Later in the academic year CCC will organize a “Day of Listening” event – possibly after a “re-gathering” of participants during IAP 2025 – where participants and MIT leaders can collectively experience the program’s output. Finally, CCC will design and produce a “capstone” effort in spring 2025 among participants at the end of their first year, which will create a bridge to the second annual RealTalk@MIT program for first-years in fall 2025.

Interested in joining a campus-wide effort to transform MIT into a “listening campus” through realtalk@MIT? Sign up now to certify as a conversation leader! 



In spring 2022, CCC launched a realtalk@MIT pilot with the support of the MIT Values Statement Committee and the Office of the Provost. This pilot included more than 160 community members who participated in 50 small-group conversations led by 44 facilitators across the Sloan School of Management, the Department of Aeronautics and Astronautics, the Department of Urban Studies and Planning, the Media Lab, and the Undergraduate Association. The idea was to develop the realtalk system and test the use of conversations as a vehicle for listening to others, creating a Living Values Statement, and for improving decisions that impact the quality of life at MIT. Conversations prompted people to share personal stories that related to MIT values: What needs to be celebrated and what causes friction? What needs to change? How might we imagine the future of MIT?

This pilot successfully laid the groundwork for establishing a culture of open communication and active listening, provided participants with a sense of empowerment, and established a successful model for providing the necessary trust and privacy so essential for moving forward. Over the following two years, the Sloan School and the Media Lab have continued this work. The current expansion of realtalk@MIT builds on this initial work.

A Quintessentially MIT Approach


What makes realtalk a uniquely MIT endeavor is the application of technology to scale dialogue. Human-steered AI and data visualization tools developed by CCC researchers are integrated into a conversation platform for trusted connection developed with, and operated by, CCC’s closely affiliated non-profit Cortico. This allows us to surface patterns and themes across the conversations. With the consent of the participants, conversations can be recorded and individuals decide if their input – often personal stories – can be shared more widely. Over time, these stories can be revisited for inclusion in discussions of broader community concerns. By helping to “connect the dots” of individual conversations into a larger social context, we will work together to build our community’s “civic muscle” and advance constructive civic discourse.

A Broad Campus-Wide Outreach

Building on its successful spring 2022 pilot, CCC’s expansion of realtalk@MIT focuses initially on students with affiliate and dorm-based conversations in the spring of 2024. This effort will be followed by a large-scale conversation program in the fall with  first-year students as participants – and fellow undergraduates as conversation leaders, who will be  trained and certified by CCC. Moving into 2025 and beyond, realtalk@MIT is expected to scale to include graduate students, staff, and faculty; additional departments, labs, and centers; and affiliate and alumni groups.

Individual Privacy is a Top Priority


When a group agrees to have a recorded conversation, the recordings are stored in a private repository that is governed by transparent data-sharing and access policies. All conversation participants have the ability to control the visibility of their own voice and words. They may opt not be be recorded, to use voice anonymization for increased privacy, or to permanently delete their contribution to the conversation.

Join now

The immediate opportunities for community members are through participation in a facilitated conversation, or to be trained as a conversation facilitator.

Sign-up sheets to join upcoming conversations will be available soon.

Please reach out to if you’d like to be trained as a conversation facilitator or have additional questions about realtalk@MIT.

Our Motivation

The realtalk@MIT approach is integral to MIT’s identity as a university that sees the most difficult problems not as obstacles, but rather as challenges to overcome. This is who we are as both individuals and as an institution.”

-Deb Roy, CCC Director