RSVP / Listening Project
25 Years of Helping Communities Move From Divisiveness and Disempowerment To Listening and Cooperative Community Action
1036 Hannah Branch Rd., Burnsville, NC 28714 Tel. 828-‐675-‐4626 www.listeningproject.org
f you are troubled by the intense social and political polarization that so often prevents positive change these days, then you can feel proud of your connection to the Listening Project (LP). Conducted by community-‐based organizations made up of everyday people like you and I, Listening Projects have for the past 25 years been successful in transforming divisiveness and disempowerment into listening and cooperative community action. Whether you have been in a project or are newly interested, you are an important part of our work.
LP’s include interviews with people who have opposing or differing views from our own. Trained, local listeners create a safe space where people can explore their concerns, hopes and beliefs in a manner that often leads to new ideas and community based solutions. The next step is empowering people to work together and create the change they seek! It’s an amazing process that takes time, commitment and resources. RSVP/ Listening Project’s training and support resources are vital to success and we depend on people like you to support our work. In this newsletter we offer you stories and reports from current Listening Projects including:
o In-‐Common Community Development in Omaha Nebraska, empowering neighborhoods to make changes that benefit all residents o Facilitated Group Listening with teens on drug and alcohol abuse results in positive youth and community action
New Projects and Possibilities
o Christian Stewardship of Creation Project addresses problems and needs of the Falls Lake Watershed which provides water for Raleigh and Wake Forest, NC o Loyola and Govans neighborhoods work together through listening to build a better relationship and grow local business o Organizational capacity building -‐-‐ Listening Projects can make your work stronger o Haitian community empowerment projects in Miami, Florida and Haiti planned by the American Friends Service Committee plans for. No article for this one yet as we are still consulting on the project.
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Loyola University and Govans Neighborhood Transform Listening into Community Organizing by Gary Gillespie
As a result of the Loyola is Listening findings, Loyola University’s Y or k Road Tas k Fo rce developed three area of focus for the community engagement initiative:
RSVP/Listening Project Board members a nd staff: (left to right, top) B rian Yaffe, Jon Ward, Whitney Brasington, Gary Gumz, Marnie Walters, Mari Ohta, (bottom) Dixie P omerat, Melia Kizer, Herb Walters, Colin Sugioka. B elow: Silvia Peterson, Cindy Warlick
1) Building Civic Capacity 2) Strengthening the Commercial Corridor 3) Enhancing Youth Development In addition, the Task Force established several crosscutting themes:
• • • • • • •
building partnerships conducting asset mapping evaluating histories unifying divisions knocking down walls in relation to Loyola’s campus and the neighborhood engaging the greater community keeping the greater Govans and Loyola communities informed of the initiatives
Building Civic Capacity
Training Manuals & Resources These materials are available on our website: http://www.listeningproject.org/
Listening Project Training Manual This new, updated m anual has a great deal of new information and m ethodologies. It is d esigned for use in RSVP's LP Training Program. It is for RSVP's national and international network of LP trainers and can be m ade available t o organizations developing a Listening Project with t he assistance of a trainer.
Facilitated Group Listening Training Manual, 2011 Edition This m anual is available to organizations wanting t o organize a facilitated dialogue. RSVP provides Facilitated Listening consultation and training when needed and we recommend t hat t his m anual be used in conjunction with such assistance.
The University co-‐sponsored an AmeriCorps VISTA member with the Greater Homewood Community Corporation to focus solely as a community organizer in the York Road communities through the York Road Partnership. As a result:
• The York Road Partnership has updated its strategic neighborhood action plan and hosted block captain and community organizing trainings for over 60 residents. • Additionally, a number of University task force members now serve on York Road Partnership standing committees, including chairing the Housing and Neighborhood Revitalization Committee, and serving on the Commercial Development, Streetscaping and Greening, Liquor and Youth Development Committees respectively. Likewise, the university is advocating for the continued support of Chesapeake Habitat for Humanity and Neighborhood Housing Services in their efforts to rebuild or
rehabilitate more than 20 homes in the Woodborne McCabe neighborhood. • Students, through service learning classes, have worked with communities and neighborhood associations to develop and implement community websites and Facebook pages and they successfully developed a resident outreach plan for one eastside neighborhood that resulted in the tripling of resident neighborhood association meeting attendance. Students, faculty, staff and alumni also participate in service days with community residents including two events held in the fall and spring to plant trees and beautify the corridor.
with the Govanstowne Business Association, Govans Ecumenical Development Corporation (GEDCO) and the Baltimore Development Corporation (BDC), and by supporting established anchors, such as the Junior League’s secondhand storefront, The Wise Penny, in promoting brand awareness.
Enhancing Youth Development The University is committed to youth development through collaborations with public and charter elementary schools in the community and through its own Clinical Centers at Belvedere Square. Loyola students and faculty worked at Guilford Elementary School and Tunbridge Public Charter School, providing faculty enhancement workshops, school counseling and after school support. A new partnership formed with Acts for Youth, an after school program at Guilford Elementary School, and the University partnered over the summer with the Mid-‐ Govans community to submit a proposal to the City Department of Recreation to prevent the closing of the DeWees Recreation Center.
Strengthening the Commercial Corridor The University and the Sellinger School of Business, support small business and commercial development through student project-‐based work and an AmeriCorps VISTA member focused on developing relationships between the business school and the community.
These commitments have led to website design and implementation for six businesses on York Road, highly rated social media workshops attended by 33 neighbors, and the development, coordination, marketing, and sponsorship of the inaugural G o va nst o w ne Far me r’s M ark et , which was hosted at Loyola’s transportation and public safety headquarters on York Road for four weeks in Summer 2011 and attracted over 10 vendors and 1000 diverse residents. Additionally, students worked to attract clusters of new business to the corridor through collaboration
Gary Gillespie has organized L istening Projects in seven Baltimore neighborhoods, o ne community in West Philadelphia a nd with Loyola U niversity in the Govans neighborhood of Baltimore. H e has a lso participated in seminars in South Africa, Cambodia a nd Brazil on gun violence a nd conflict transformation where he presented o n community listening a s a tool to lessen violence. Gary directed the Baltimore office of AFSC a nd is currently coordinator for the Baltimore College Peace Network. Contact: at firstname.lastname@example.org; or 443-‐8 47-‐8 989
that a group of trainees came back to inCOMMON to conduct listening sessions at the Community Meal hosted by inCOMMON.
inCommon Community Listening Paves the Way for Change
In May 2010, RSVP trained 12 Listening Project organizers at inCOMMON Community Development in Omaha, Nebraska. inCommon continues to use listening at the heart of all the work they do within the under-‐ resourced Park Avenue neighborhood. This includes their Community Meals, where residents share stories and ideas, Listening Booths, which have enabled one on one interviews that are recorded, and their Listening Circles, where neighbors explore their stories, experiences and connections to the neighborhood. They are currently processing all that they have learned so they can continue to utilize resident input and leadership in all of their programs including development of a new community resource center that can respond to the priorities of residents.
A second inCOMMON focus has been fostering more listening throughout the city of Omaha. They have done this by providing listening training to v arious groups. For example, The Omaha Chamber launched a young professionals group a few years ago. On August 10, 2011 about a dozen board members of the young professionals group came to inCOMMON Community Development for the listening project training. The training was such a huge success
inCOMMON hosted a listening booth at the Crossroads Connections Annual Block Party this fall. Hundreds attended the party throughout the evening and about six Park Avenue residents were interviewed throughout the evening. Many residents spoke about the violence, crime, and prostitution in the area. Some also spoke about the hope that they have for Park Avenue-‐-‐believing that it has potential and events like block parties bring light to the darkness that is often associated with that area. Residents were educated about the listening events that are offered at inCOMMON and some plan to participate in the Community Meals in the future. Now, after almost two years they have seen other organizations in Omaha implementing listening meetings, sessions, and opportunities into their community work. The power listening has in connecting people together and providing the roots for change has been moving across this city in all kinds of ways. A great time for listening has come to Omaha.
More info: Calvin Smothers, inCOMMON Community Development, Community Center Director. C ontact: 402.933.6672, Calvin@inCOMMONcd.org
From: Yancey Common Times Journal Re: Article for I mmediate Release, 11/8/11
Drug Abuse Task Force Listens to Students For Solutions
In February of this year, 60 Mountain Heritage High School students participated in a Facilitated Group Listening session sponsored by the Prescription Drug Abuse Task Force. Funding was provided by the Graham Children’s Health Services. The purpose behind this Listening to Our Teens event was to engage Mountain Heritage High students in examining what the current situation is with teen use of alcohol and drugs and to explore ways to respond to the problem of teen drug and alcohol abuse. A current evaluation of the results of this event indicates that MHHS students have already had a positive impact on these matters.
Amy Sheele, director of Graham Children’s Health Services believes that “Listening to Our Teens (LTOT) was a great success, based on new programs that were influenced by their input.”
implemented.” The following are some examples:
1. Inspired by the leadership teens demonstrated at the listening session and their and their interest in providing additional leadership, a teen drug prevention group at the high school called TIP (Teens in Prevention) has been formed. Patty Hughes at the high school is the club sponsor. 2. An after school fitness center program for 20 students. (Many requests were made in the group listening session for more after school activities). The program is two hours for two times a week. It is free to participants and transportation is provided. Fitness Center staff and volunteers work with the students during this time. 3. Teen events sponsored by the Prescription Drug Task Force, have included a free pool party, a day of live music at the town square in partnership with Family Violence Coalition, and a free movie night. 4. One student in particular made a plea for 4-‐H programming at MHHS
“We were all really pleased with the maturity and willingness of the students to take a serious look at what was going on in and out of school with substance abuse,” says Herb Walters, director of RSVP / Listening Project. Walters facilitated planning meetings and provided two hour training on use of the Facilitated Group Listening process. After the training he joined thirteen adults from the high school and from local health agencies who acted as facilitators (guides) for each teen group of five to six. Each of these teen groups listened to one another as one at a time, they responded to five LTOT questions that enabled teen participants to reflect on both problems and possible solutions.
“Looking back,” says Sheele, “listening to our amazing teens, who were members of various school clubs, has provided us with a better understanding of the problems as well as great ideas for drug and alcohol prevention. In fact many of their recommendations have already been
According to Tres Magner, director of Yancey Extension, "4-‐H wants to build their presence at the High School and one way we plan to do that is begin a 4-‐H Club targeted at students in the middle schools, and build on that as they move into the high school. 4-‐H would also work closely with FFA to make sure students have a v ariety of opportunities and to avoid any duplication.
Christian Stewardship Listening Project:
Falls Lake Watershed Restoration and Protection
Picture, from left to right: Pamela Lewis, educational consultant; Dr. Robert George, director of the George Institute for Biodiversity a nd Sustainability which is the primary sponsor of this project under the auspices of the L. R uss Bush Center for Faith and Culture, Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary; Pastor Dwayne Milioni, pastor of the Open Door Baptist Church a nd Herb Walters, RSVP/Listening Project trainer
In the last decade there is a growing concern from the Christian faith community, to take active part in promoting clean water and healthy habitats and ecosystems in our lakes, rivers and the estuaries along the coast. The goal of this project is to serve in a catalytic and proactive manner in mobilizing ongoing plans to develop clean drinking water from the Falls Lake Reservoir for nearly half a million people in the Triangle area (the city of Raleigh and Wake County).
The restoration of Falls Lake Watershed, as stipulated by the North Carolina State Environmental Management Commission (EMC), is to achieve the goal of cleaning up the Falls Lake upper part within10 years and the lower part within 30 years.
The Falls Lake – Neuse River Christian Creation Stewardship Project focuses on two means of influencing the Falls Lake development planning. One is to build grassroots support for sustainable development by working with different pastors and other leaders in the churches in the Falls Lake watershed area. The second is to provide information that is both science and faith-‐based and that provides clear and achievable
development to complement the efforts of government agencies.
The first approach will begin with initiation of the “Christian Stewardship Listening Project. The effort includes teams of trained interviewers with each team interviewing pastors. The interview process is based on the 25 years of successful Listening Projects conducted by RSVP/ Listening Project – including a current successful model – the Christian Stewardship Listening Project. The trained interviewers will utilize active listening and open-‐ended questions that enable the interviewees to explore their own feelings and ideas about Creation Stewardship and it’s meaning in relation to caring for the Falls Lake watershed eco-‐system. Questions will be carefully selected so that church leaders have an opportunity to express their concerns, ideas and priorities for Falls Lake development in context of Creation Stewardship This project derives energy and enthusiasm from the works of Pastor Dwayne Milioni and his colleagues at the Open Door Baptist Church, which will serve as the nucleus of the dialogues and roundtables for promoting the proposed plans. The project also draws strength from the Christian vision of ‘Creation Care’, as envisaged in the 2008 book entitled “For the Beauty of the Earth” (Bouma-‐Prediger, 2008).
Dr. Robert Y. George will serve as the director of the Falls Lake ‘Christian Creation Stewardship’ (CCS) project. He is a science consultant at the ‘Center for Faith and Culture’ to develop, teach and promote ‘Creation-‐based” environmental stewardship.
Phase Two The second phase of this work will be a pro-‐active Theoecology Dialogue Project (PTDP). The purpose of this phase is to place the recommendations from the faith-‐based community from 9 churches in the vicinity of Falls Lake to the different stakeholders of the Falls Lake Ecosystems. These stakeholders and managers will include the following:
A. The City of Raleigh (Utility Department) since the Falls Lake provides drinking water to 500,000 citizens of the Wake County, primarily Raleigh.
B. The Water Quality Department of the NC Department of Energy and Natural Water Resources since this department works to maintain the water quality of the Falls Lake to meet the state standards as well as to bring the quality mandated by federal regulations through the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Furthermore, the Falls Lake in north Raleigh has the city Waste Treatment Facility and effluents from the treated waste contain trace elements which impact the health of plants and animals in the ecosystems. Because of new developments (houses and shopping malls) and lack of a buffer zone there is a significant flux of phosphorus and nitrogen through storm water entry via creeks and rainwater flow in to the Falls Lake. The increased nutrient loading results in outbursts of dinoflagellates and plants that consume the dissolved oxygen and create hypoxia, leading to fish kills. Toxic algal blooms also make the proactive dialogues with managers of the Falls Lake Dam and will continue the dialogues on the basis of the recommendations from the Listening Project.
C. Army Corps of Engineers: ‘Falls Lake Dam’ was built in the early ‘80s primarily to control flooding problems. We have already developed proactive dialogues with managers of the Falls Lake Dam and will continue the dialogues on the basis of the recommendations from the Listening Project.
D. Large-‐Mouth Bass Restoration: There is great scope to increase the biomass of the large mouth bass and striped bass populations, using the models from Gastonia Lake-‐Roanoke River Ecosystem in the northern North Carolina near Virginia border and also the Chesapeake Bake Program with advice from Dr. Reginal Darrell (one of the members of the steering committee). We have initiated discussions with fisheries ecologist Dr. Jim Rice of North Carolina State University to gain input in enhancing the large-‐mouth bass populations in Falls Lake ecosystems.
E. Environmental Management Commission (EMC): It is our goal to bring before the EMC the results of this project and there fore the commission will have sufficient input from the faith-‐based communities around Falls Lake in
heir decision-‐making process for the restoration of Falls lake Ecosystems and eventually the Neuse River Basin which will be a follow-‐up large scale project contemplated for 4 years (2013-‐2026).
Contact info@RSVP.info regarding Christian Stewardship of Creation Listening Projects. You can read the full article, submitted to the Theoecology Journal, at our website: http://www.listeningproject.org/
Rural Southern Voice for Peace
Social Change Organizations Can Build Capacity with a Listening Project
Listening Projects have helped many hundreds of organizations achieve positive local, regional and even national change. Equally important is the fact that successful Listening Projects also increase the strength, diversity, public support and overall sustainability of the organization/s conducting the project. Organizations that have conducted LP’s have grown stronger in the following ways:
✸ Increasing membership and financial support This leads to more active participants and more financial support for the organization. In Harlan County, K entucky, the groundwater and soil of the town of Dayhoit had been severely poisoned by chemicals from a plant that cleans mining equipment. Health problems were widespread, but many residents were uninformed or afraid to speak out. The Concerned Citizens Against Toxic Waste (CCATW) used a Listening Project to document the effects of the contamination and to educate people. It also brought so many new people into the organization that their new problem was how to involve them all. CCATW’s Interview results also helped them access new funding sources.
✸ Identifying and integrating new community leaders
At a public meeting in West Palm Beach, Florida the mayor announced important new initiatives to “draw the line on crime”, including plans to convert a boarded up building that had once housed a historic African American elementary school into a multi-‐service center. The president of United Sisters Pleasant City, a group of low-‐income
single moms living in a neighborhood where the school was located approached the mayor after the meeting. She made the case that unless residents of that neighborhood were involved in the creation and running of such a center, it could not succeed in truly meeting the needs of that area. The Pleasant City Listening Project engaged residents in that process and helped contribute to the creation of the resident-‐led and staffed Asili Resource Center.
environmental protection that included many who had previously been apathetic or negative about environmental protection. Several years later, CSLP initiated formation of Sustainable Yancey (SY). Led by business, civic, church, and community representatives, SY continues today to conduct a range of programs that have strengthened sustainable economic and resource development in Yancey County.
✸ ✸ ✸ ✸
“I no longer was all alone; I was talking to people who were describing the same things that I felt. That was a very healing experience for me. I came back feeling uplifted, knowing that I had given people a gift of spending time to listen to them. In the process, I had been given a lot, too.” Quote from The Listening Project: P ersonal and Social Change through D eep Listening, by Herb Walters with Geoff Huggins
✸ Helping create new community partnerships and coalitions that have greater resources to achieve mutual goal
In 2008, a “ Listening to Our Teens” (LTOT) project initiated by the Asheville City Schools Foundation was conducted by 20 school and community organizations. At a Listening to our teen’s summit in June 2009, 85 service providers and community representatives came together to learn about the results of interviews with 85 teens and 40 family members. Out of this discussion, community collaboration led to programs that responded to teen/family priorities. This included launching of “IN REAL LIFE,” an after school program that responded to teen and family needs for quality after school activities for teens.
✸ Creating long-‐term capacity for cooperative community action
In Yancey County, NC, the Christian Stewardship Listening Project CSLP resulted in church leaders coming together for the first time to advocate for stewardship of our environment as God’s creation. This created a local, faith-‐based approach to
30 years ago … Rural Southern Voice for Peace was born 25 years ago … We initiated the first Listening Project
Since those early days we have worked with people who we believe to be some of the great, unheralded heroes and heroines of our time. They give deeply from their lives for the betterment of others. Some make an income that supports their community organizing work; some volunteer their time. Many are low-‐income or working class people, or professionals with demanding jobs. Even in the midst of their busy lives, perhaps struggling to make a living or to raise a family, they take time to help their community and the world around them. They give with dedication and wisdom and with less reward than they deserve. They do this not because they think they are natural leaders, but because they are willing to do what it takes, make mistakes, learn and grow, and to find joy in service. Thank you for being one of these people or for supporting our work so we can assist them or for just doing the day-‐to-‐day service of being kind and generous to others and to all creation. To all of you we give thanks & we appreciate your continued support.
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