Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Giving Tuesday

Today is Giving Tuesday. A day for giving back to the community and to issues that we feel are important. Listening Project currently has projects on Domestic Violence in Nevada, a Nationwide project looking at community responses to Hydraulic Fracturing (fracking), North Carolina Voter Rights, and empowerment in economically impacted communities in Kenya. Consider giving to Listening Project today to help us continue our work. You can find more information about ways to give here: http://www.listeningproject.info/ or on our Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/listeningprojectrsvp

Thursday, November 28, 2013

The National Day of Listening

Listen up! Friday is the National Day of Listening. Started by StoryCorps (you can share an audio recording at the link) and you can also share a story about listening here on our blog. We would love to have you tell us how listening made a difference in your life.  You can also read other stories about listening, too.

For more than 25 years, the Listening Project has been helping communities listen to each other to find new solutions and create grassroots change. Support our work: Listening works.

Friday, November 8, 2013

Valentine's Day Dance

The Listening Project is hosting a Valentine's Day Fundraiser Dance on Saturday February 15th, 2014. Come and enjoy 50's and 60's music. Kids activities and fun desserts. More information to come.

Monday, October 14, 2013

New Projects

  • Fracking in the U.S. 
  • North Carolina Voter Empowerment 
  • Listening Projects in Kenya, Africa 
  • Responding to Domestic Violence in Nevada 
Our nationwide campaign on fracking is gaining steam.
A southwest Michigan fracking campaign is developing with a regional coalition. One of the leaders in this evolving coalition attended Herb’s Listening Project workshops at the People’s Institute at Circle Pines in Michigan. This organizer is a strong advocate for putting Listening Projects at the center of the coalition’s efforts to facilitate effective community responses to fracking.

North Carolina Voter Empowerment Listening Project 
We are planning a non-partisan effort to provide state residents with the opportunity to examine and respond to actions of the 2013 NC Legislature on issues of economic security, education, public health, and voting rights. We seek to empower voters in these areas of concern.

Responding to Domestic Violence in Nevada 
We are helping the Nevada Network Against Domestic Violence apply a Listening Project to their vital work that saves lives and opens doors to a new life. At their site, NNADV reports 15,167 contacts with victims of domestic violence in a three-month period.

Listening Projects in Kenya, Africa
Kenya TATUA wants to train their organizers to use Listening Projects and Facilitated Group Listening in their efforts to empower economically impacted communities in Kenya that are experiencing ongoing ethnic tensions.

Top: Tatua Kenya team members enjoy a BBQ together one Saturday.
Below:  Kenneth Chomba, Tatua Kenya Field Manager, teaching at a training at Nyumbani Children’s Home.

Get Involved

Sunday, October 6, 2013

What does it mean to be a good listener

On a beautiful day in May, the Listening Project was invited to conduct a facilitated group listening project at the public high school in Burnsville, NC, making it the first time that RSVP had been involved at Mountain Heritage High School. What made this event special is that it focused on an issue that is affecting everyone, everywhere: Climate change.

How do I approach the role of listening in my daily life?

The students, about fifty in all, split up into several small groups in which each student was invited to respond to specific questions pertaining to climate change, such as, "What, if anything, makes this an important enough issue to discuss with others?" RSVP did not lecture at the students about climate change, nor did they implore them with a series of shoulds. RSVP simply listened. Not a lot happened for the first half, but a feeling of trust set in during the second half and it was amazing what came out.

In what ways might my own motives or biases be making it difficult for me to listen?

Every student had an opinion, and every opinion had its rich history of experience to support it. And that rich history, when expressed, revealed the cultural minefields, local prejudices, and political baggage that complicates these students' lives. Some said that they might be able to act with more care for the environment if it were not entangled with the stereotypes of being a liberal or a hippie. One student said that his daddy is a logger and that his daddy's daddy was a logger and that he too will go on to be a logger, and that there's no room in his life for him to choose to be an environmentalist lest he be ostracized. Some said it's impossible to care about the environment without being considered an environmentalist.

How might listening improve my relations with members of my community?

This event was hopefully, truly, for the students. RSVP hopefully pulled out that which is true from inside each student. It was a small step, but on the right path. We left feeling inspired and full from the wisdom the students had to offer about the issue of climate change in the Burnsville community.

Monday, September 2, 2013

Listening to Teachers on Issues of Cultural Understanding in Classrooms

As a trainer of Head Start teachers, I’m used to doing more talking than listening.  Much of what I train on presently is a curriculum I’m helping to develop that reflects the culture and language of the children, whose parents are migrant farmworkers.  While the teachers seem to buy-in during training, I’d seen few changes in their classrooms, i.e. they still looked like typical American plastic preschools. 

During a recent training, I went on a hunch about why their good intentions were not being translated into practice.  Frequently, our classrooms are staffed with a lead who possesses a teaching degree, and an assistant who speaks the language of the children but has less formal training.  Curious if inequities in cultural power were at play, I asked the teachers who were white or African American (and were mostly leads) to reflect on what from their cultures they thought the children should know to successfully acculturate.  I asked the teachers of Latino culture, who were mostly assistants, to think about how to change the planning process so that their knowledge could be included and reflected in the classrooms.

After 20 minutes of intense conversation, the 2 groups sat across from each other and began speaking.  My first realization that their interaction could explode was the visual sight of 3 cultural groups facing off with arms crossed on their chests and a table between them.  Na├»ve but hopeful, I listened carefully to their thoughts. An African American teacher described the pressure of a consequence focused work environment, and the intense responsibility she feels for meeting Head Start requirements.  A Latino teacher spoke of her discomfort with seeing sombreros as the sole representation of her culture on the classroom walls.  One misunderstanding after another revealed itself, with the potential for offense hanging heavily in the air as a group or person realized they were being accused.  Some misunderstandings were culturally based, while others were not.  Fully aware, finally, of what I had set in motion, I affirmed the strength of the emotions in the room and the courage they were displaying in saying what needed to be said.

And then, with one story, they became a school community again.  An African American teacher who now has power (she is a degreed, lead teacher) talked about the shame of being teased as a child for wearing different shoes to school, due to a lack of home electricity that meant dressing in the dark. As she cried, one Latino teacher passed a tissue as another touched her back. Tensions melted into talking through how they could share power, so that their best thoughts – the ones borne from shared past experiences of being a minority, of being excluded, of not being considered – could be brought to the light for the benefit of the children we teach.

- Story from a Board Member

Monday, August 26, 2013

Listening in the Workplace

I am the owner of a small business that has successfully grown despite my and my husband’s lack of formal training in how to run a business. One of the most challenging aspects of owning a business for us is “Human Resources” – a.k.a. hiring & firing, and helping people communicate effectively with one another in a work environment. We also live in a very small community, so maintaining good relationships with folks (both in and outside of work) is very important.
We have recently had a few challenging Human Resources issues arise. In one instance we felt that we needed to let one of our employees go, and in another, we had two employees who work closely together that just could not get along. I am not a person that likes conflict or drama, so the way that we were successfully able to resolve these issues was through listening. In both cases we had “clearness” meetings with the involved employees where we just listened to what they had to say and how they felt. In turn, we expressed our needs and expectations as well. These meetings went on for as long as they needed to in order for everyone to be able to fully express their feelings and experiences, and feel that they were truly “heard”.

The results of this “deep listening” have been amazing. I feel like it has greatly improved my understanding of peoples’ needs in a work environment, and it has deepened my respect and understanding of these individuals personally. In the case of the person that we ultimately had to fire, he was able to air his grievances with us (as well as us with him) in a safe manner. We were able to assist him in getting another job where he can feel more comfortable and let his skills shine. And it gave us the opportunity to recognize mistakes we had made so that we can become better employers. Now whenever I see him in the community, I feel love and appreciation for him, and I think it is reciprocated. 

As for the two co-workers who just weren’t getting along, they were able to come to an understanding that they have different communication styles which were resulting in both of them getting upset. After each sharing their versions of recent events that had caused conflict, and listening to the other’s feelings and reactions, they were able to better understand and appreciate each other. And although it is an ongoing process, they are learning how to communicate effectively with one another so that neither of them gets annoyed or gets their feelings hurt. This simple process of listening to one another has proven itself to be an effective way to create and maintain a pleasant working atmosphere and minimize conflict in the workplace.

- Story from a Listening Project Board Member