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RSVP/ Listening Project Training and Resource Center 2010 – 2011 Newsletter; 1036 Hannah Branch Rd., Burnsville, NC 28714; 828-675-5933

It is still possible … t o create cooperative community action that crosses polit ical, rel igious and ideolog ical l ines … t o tap int o t he wisdom and creat ive solutions of people and communities so that positive, g rassroot s change can happen We know it is possible! For 24 years, successful Listening Project s condu cted by people like y ou, hav e transf ormed t he lives of individu al s and communities!

~~ ~ In this newsletter you can find new reasons for hope: New Listening Projects from: Communities in Omaha, Nebraska and in Baltimore, Maryland that are listening and working together to rebuild neighborhoods Grassroots action that grew out of Listening Projects, including: Listening to Our Teens, the Christian Stewardship of Creation Project, and PICA’s LP on Immigration and Global Trade Resources including our new Facilitated Group Listening Manual and an upcoming book on the Listening Project We invite you to be a part of our work: • Donate. Grassroots support is critical. • Get Involved. Check out some options on page 4. • Send contact info for people we can send this newsletter to • Share the enclosed brochure 1

The Power in Listening and Working Together

Reflections from Beth Maczka, Community Foundation of Western NC

Over the past few years, the Community Foundation has made grants supporting nonprofits that proposed building communitybased solutions by listening and/or bringing stakeholders together. It is fair to say that at the time these grants were leaps of faith as we were not being asked to support a program, we were being asked to support the learning process. I was struck recently, as I reviewed a number of final grant evaluations, that these nonprofits took program development to a new level of understanding and developed very specific solutions working for their communities. Some of these nonprofits conducted a Listening Project, a process developed over 25 years by Herb Walters, the director of Rural Southern Voice for Peace (RSVP). A Listening Project (LP) is a comprehensive process that includes deep listening interviews and community organizing that can result in cooperative community education and action. LPs are especially useful in communities where conflict, divisions or disempowerment weakens efforts for change. The process can lead to new possibilities and the identification of common ground.

Results: Christian Stewardship Listening Project (CSLP) In spring 2008, RSVP received a CFWNC Strategy Grant for CSLP. The project interviewed 53 church leaders from primarily conservative and evangelical churches in Yancey and Madison counties. This enabled people who had previously been disengaged or critical of environmentalism to create their own local, faith-based approach to caring for the earth. Interviews and follow-up organizing resulted in the formation of a widely-respected church leadership team that continues to work on several successful new or ongoing projects with local churches. These include • Adopt-A-Stream, a program which benefits the French Broad River basin • Energy audits for churches • Home weatherization for lowincome families • Watershed protection in the county


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Seeking Balance programs in churches. Include a CFWNC DVD on sustainable development and opportunities for dialogue and listening to get ideas, concerns and priorities from church members. Creation care programs for Christian youth and youth educators Sustainable Yancey, an organization working to determine local support and priorities for sustainable development.

Results: Listening to Our Teens This fall, the Asheville, NC City Schools Foundation launched In Real Life – an afterschool initiative that was a direct result of the Listening to Our Teens project conducted in the spring of 2008. A CFWNC Opportunity Grant enabled the Asheville City Schools Foundation to work with RSVP to recruit and train volunteers to talk and listen to middle-school teens and their families. The result of these conversations was a clear identification of the need for relevant after-school activities for youth in our community. “We were told at the beginning of the process that interviews had to lead to action or we would lose our credibility,” noted Kate Pett of the Asheville City Schools Foundation. Less than two years later, students at Asheville Middle School can take advantage of an exciting menu of after-school activities that includes sports, the arts and academic support. The project, modeled on a successful program in Rhode Island, simplifies program delivery by coordinating registration and transportation for youth. The impact of this small grant is even more powerful now that the United Way of Asheville and Buncombe County has chosen to focus on middle school success and will work closely with Asheville Middle and Owen Middle to support strong after-school programming.

Another Example of Listening for Change A CFWNC Strategy Grant in the fall of 2008 supported a six-county collaboration of Healthy Carolinian Partnerships. The local groups came together to learn about the documentary, Unnatural Causes – Is Inequality Making Us Sick? Together these counties hired a facilitator to help each community host local viewings of the documentary and conduct discussions about how best to address larger structural issues that impact health outcomes, (continued on p. 5)

Community Development of Omaha, Nebraska

strengthening vulnerable neighborhoods, building relational networks, and challenging the many causes of poverty. By Caite Caughey

What could happen if we listened to one another? What could we dream up together? How might listening impact our neighborhood? These questions guided our grassroots organization – inCOMMON -- to the Listening Project in late 2009. A year earlier in September 2008, our Director of Neighborhood Development, Brittany Hanson, in collaboration with the local faith communities, organized the Park Avenue Community Meal. The meal is a weekly gathering space for neighbors to share a warm meal and conversation. It is open for lunch and hospitality every Saturday afternoon, and usually brings 200 to 300 neighbors around the table. Sixteen neighborhood faith communities support and sustain this project as a way to engage deeper with their neighbors and collaborate across faith traditions and beliefs. Over the course of two years, inCOMMON recognized a great potential for creative advocacy that was revealed by the wealth of stories and ideas that have been shared at the Community Meal. This inspired new projects highlighting both creativity and advocacy. The first venture was a neighborhood photography project that focused on visual depictions and snapshots of neighborhood culture. Brittany collected photography depicting everyday neighborhood images. These photographs are currently on display at a local church. Our next step was listening more intently, and finding a project that valued listening, storytelling, and community development. Rural Southern Voice for Peace and the Listening Project was the answer. The Listening Project uses curious, compassionate and active listening while uncovering community priorities. The Listening Project also sees all people as part of the solution, not the problem. This was exactly what we needed more of in the neighborhood. A few willing neighbors started organizing the project with inCOMMON, and in February 2010

the group outlined their goals. The group wanted to create safe spaces, just like the Park Avenue Community Meal, where people might stop and share their stories and ideas. In May 2010, Herb Walters trained twelve Listening Project organizers at inCOMMON. A few weeks later the organizers began listening around the neighborhood. The first installation included two chairs set up in the neighborhood where people gather or intersect. One chair is for the listener and the other for someone willing to talk. These spaces are called Listening Booths. Now after a few months of one-on-one listening sessions, we are convening opportunities for group listening and dialogue through Listening Circles. In the circles, neighbors are exploring their own stories and experiences and their connection to the neighborhood. The project is sprouting many ideas for our neighborhood as well as opening doors for collaboration with other organizations. We are working with Neighbors United, Omaha Table Talk, Progressive Omaha and Creighton University students who will be participating in our Listening Project. Another new partnership is with the City of Omaha! Our Mayor just started the Cities of Service Program and we are looking for ways to collaborate with volunteers across the city. We’ve already heard a lot about community priorities and challenges, community leadership, suggestions for change, and personal reflections


in the first month. Following the interview portion of our project we hope to screen a short film highlighting as many of the interviews as possible, as well as host summits and gatherings where we can share the interviews as an educational tool that can lead to cooperative community action. A few clips from our Listening Booth:

Guiding Questions: * Tell me about your neighborhood, what is it like? * If there were a group of people in your neighborhood working for positive change, would you like to be involved? * What sort of things would you like to work on? Sample of Responses: “When I first moved here I thought the neighbors would be mean, but they were really nice. That is the best thing about the neighborhood, the people.” Rajanae Birge “There’s a lot more need for people to be involved, and build relationships most of all. Because like the song says ‘people need people,’ and they need someone that wants to listen.” Modesto Olivo “There needs to be more for the youth, they need an outlet to be kids.” Gene Moore “There is a lot of potential for things to happen right now in this neighborhood. That is why we moved here, because it is a neighborhood in transition.” Brian Gladstone

For inCOMMON Updates: The Listening Project Blog, More info:

~~~~ Send Your Listening Stories RSVP/Listening Project

We are working on a book about the Listening Project. Included in the book are powerful projects that have occurred over the past 24 years as well as personal stories of how listening has made a difference in one’s personal life. Do you have a story to share? Recall a time when you listened or someone listened to you and it really made a difference. Send us your story and we’ll look it over for possible inclusion in the book. Sorry, we can’t offer payment but your story may inspire others. Thanks, Herb Walters, Geoff Huggins and Usha Ruark

Ways to be a part of RSVP/ Listening Project  Send us your love. We send you ours. 

Send us a donation, We depend on grassroots support.

 Participate. Is there an organization in your community that could benefit from a Listening Project? Can you help with a project elsewhere? Do you want to become a Listening Project trainer?  Send contact info for others who should get our free newsletter  Read our website. Learn more and see examples of inspiring projects from the past 24 years. (

“If you can’t sit out in your front yard and see your kids running up and down the street with the neighbors, then something’s wrong with the neighborhood.” Reuben Thornton, Sr.

 Use our brochure and tell others about the Listening Project & Facilitated Group Listening.

“I don’t care if you’re male or female or somewhere in between, everyone has something to say.” Larry Graves

Thank you for whatever you can do for justice and harmony in this world.

“Now we got our own place. It's a slum house, but oh well, at least it's ours." Traci Laney

Herb , Dixie , Coli n, Ma ri , Silvi a, Bri an, Florence , Us ha


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such as the location of grocery stores, access to recreation facilities and land-use planning. As expected, each county’s strategy was unique to their local resources and dynamics. Buncombe County recently hosted a three-day training session for healthcare workers to address institutional racism. McDowell County identified the need for a Latino Center and a campaign to address drunk driving. Macon County chose to focus on the social isolation of teens in a very rural area. What is important is that each of the three grants launched a process without a clear indication of what might be learned but with the commitment and capacity to act on their findings. Each organization has made significant strides in increasing communication and problem solving in ways that respect differences and ensure community participation and collaboration. The Community Foundation’s process of convening and of working with stakeholders to ensure community-based solutions is an important aspect of our work that will impact our region for years to come. As a program officer reviewing grant applications and reports, I am inspired that nonprofits are creating new solutions, involving broad constituencies and developing effective programs unique to their communities. Working together, respecting differences, and ensuring that all voices are heard, we can create positive and lasting change and have a real impact on our region.

Listening Project Resources A New Facilitated Group Listening (FGL) Training Manual FGL provides another option for building bridges of communication and bringing forth new ideas, solutions and cooperative community action. FGL is conducted in the manner of a workshop by organizations that want to improve communication between people of differing opinions on a particular community concern. How FGL Works: Pre-determined questions and small group facilitators provide a framework for discussion groups of 3 to 8 people. Each participant has roughly equal time to respond to each question before the next question is asked by the facilitator. Participants must all agree beforehand to a group contract that insures the right of each person to be heard and respected. The focus is not on debating or discussing differences but on listening that increases understanding, empathy and finding common ground. Small group listening sessions end with questions that bring forth positive ideas, solutions, and opportunities for ongoing education and action.

There are a few basic choices organizations must make in considering use of an FGL. These are: 1. Whether or not you should use a FGL as part of a Listening Project. 2. Whether or not you need a trainer to help you develop your FGL (this depends on your organization’s available skills and resources). To help you with these decisions you can go to the Facilitated Group Listening link at: where you can also order the manual. Then you can contact RSVP/Listening Project with additional questions.

The Listening Project Training Manual & Our Website: The LP training manual can be used for informational purposes. However when used in developing and training for a Listening Project, the manual should not be a substitute for a qualified LP organizer or Trainer. Rural Southern Voice for Peace (RSVP) is the national training and resource center for the Listening Project, and we can provide a network of available trainers. We also train new trainers.

Sustainable Yancey In Yancey County, NC, local working people, including business, civic, church and community leaders formed Sustainable Yancey in response to concerns and priorities revealed by the Christian Stewardship Listening Project (CSLP). These interviews revealed that many church and community leaders believed in caring for the earth as God’s creation. There was also real concern about environmentalism that disregards the needs of human beings. Sustainable Yancey works for community development and progress that is sustainable. That means long lasting progress that benefits and sustains our: • Families and future generations • Economy • Natural Resources • Mountain Traditions and Faith Sustainable Yancey works in partnership with local organizations, civic groups and government agencies to foster sustainable development. Examples include: • Voluntary Agricultural Districts that provide several benefits to farmers including tax reduction on farm land. • Small Town Economic Prosperity (Yancey STEP) will develop a community based plan for using a $100,000 economic development grant. • The Toe River Restoration Project will help restore and protect local rivers. • Improving county watershed regulations


Loyola and Govans Neighbors Launch Listening Project from the Loyola website and an interview with Gary Gillespie, Director, Baltimore Urban Peace Program Loyola University, Maryland, is launching Loyola is Listening, an initiative designed to uncover the strengths and challenges affecting the Govans neighborhood just east of Loyola's Evergreen campus in north Baltimore. In Govans, the population on the east side of York Rd. is mainly white and fairly middle class, with some very wealthy neighborhoods included. On the west side of York road, the population is mainly African-American with primarily working class and low-income households. The strategy for this Listening Project took into account these differences. Planning created ways to reach all populations, including the business community. The first of three listening sessions will pair Govans residents and business owners with teams of Loyola faculty, administrators, staff, and students trained to ask an extensive series of questions about what the residents enjoy about their neighborhood and what they would like to change, the services and amenities they would like to add, and their perspectives on Loyola and its role in the community. Approximately 50 Govans residents and 20 Loyola community members are expected to participate in the first Loyola is Listening event. The University worked with area churches, businesses, and community groups to recruit participants for the session. "Working with our neighbors to improve the health and stability of the York Road corridor is a critical component of our current strategic plan," said Rev. Brian F. Linnane, S.J, Loyola's president. "'Loyola is Listening' is the first step in our efforts to discover the greatest opportunities and challenges facing the community, as well as the best ways for Loyola to play a positive role in the neighborhood's future.� Loyola is Listening was developed in partnership with the American Friends Service Committee (AFSC), a Quaker organization that


carries out service, development, social justice, and peace programs throughout the world. Gary Gillespie has conducted several successful Listening Projects in Baltimore and the surrounding area. Two additional Loyola is Listening sessions will take place on Wednesday, Feb. 24, at the American Friends Service Committee office at 4806 York Road and on Wednesday, March 24, at the Peace Studies Center at Govans Presbyterian Church at 5528 York Road. All sessions run from 7 - 8:30 p.m. Further info: Courtney Jolley at or 410-617-5025.

Immigration and Global Trade: Maine LP Update The kNOw US AND THEM Listening Project conducted by Power in Community Alliance (PICA) has in the past two years, helped PICA develop new alliances with immigrant, labor and faith communities. Progress is being made in helping workers, both documented and undocumented, understand their common goals and the negative effects of global trade. PICA is now adding to its understanding of immigrant life in Maine by conducting interviews with people in the Bangor area whose work or volunteer efforts bring them into contact with immigrants. These interviews will help us develop a deeper sense of the supports and obstacles that immigrants often encounter. Our Dignity Community Campaign will then help us promote positive and productive relations between agencies and institutions in the area, including social services, health-care and legal agencies, houses of worship and law enforcement. We are continuing to offer presentations and workshops utilizing already completed LP interviews with immigrants and other workers in Maine, with a focus on building alliances between immigrants and Maine workers. These events are done in an engaging, "popular education" format to initiate constructive dialogue about the causes and impacts of immigration. These programs highlight both the personal and societal aspects of the immigration story and have been very well received! Further info: Power in Community Alliances (PICA); 207-947-4203;

2010-2011 Newsletter  


2010-2011 Newsletter