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

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Share An Important Listening Story with Us

We would like to hear how listening had helped you connect and bridge differences in your life. Share a story with us that tells about an important listening event in your life. You don't have to share just one story you can share as many as you like.

To share a story with us: scroll to the bottom of this post and click on the text that says post comment. A dialogue box will open, in this box type your story. When you are done just click the post button.

Here is an example to get you started:

In the early 70’s, I worked for a few years in a “group home” for troubled kids who were labeled by the system as being  “disturbed or delinquent.”  The director of the home really loved kids, as did I.  I was lucky to work with him because I was green at this work and right away he demonstrated how important it was to listen to the kids and understand where they were coming from.  It was all too easy to react to their anger and hostility, but in this home we didn’t react.  We kept in mind what had made the kids so angry and hostile and when we kept loving them and listening to them, little miracles started happening.  No, not just little, rather powerful things happened.  In our group meetings, we asked a lot of questions and gave the kids plenty of opportunities to express their feelings and also give their ideas for resolving difficult issues.  Difficult issues or problems were often solved by the kids themselves.  We empowered them and they rose to the occasion – not always, but often enough.  The end result is we became a caring community rather than being just a group home.

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Listening Projects on fracking

UPDATE: Dryden NY Wins Battle Against Fracking   

Listening Projects on Fracking in New York 
by Dirk Trachy 

In recent years, the controversial gas drilling method known as high volume hydraulic-fracturing, or fracking has become a topic of household discussion across the country. In the state of New York, concerned residents have organized scores of grassroots groups to confront the oil and gas industry and have effected a de facto moratorium for several years now.

In the economically depressed rural rustbelt of Upstate, tensions can run high on the issue. While the media often portrays simplistic dichotomies of landowners or lease holders versus environmentalists, the on the ground realities are far more complex. Safeguarding our water, air, climate, communities and rural economies requires complex local knowledge and relationship building in sometimes polarized areas. 

In the small town of Van Etten, NY, one community group approached its grassroots organizing from a starting place of listening.

Van Etten, NY
Van Etten has experienced gas drilling and leasing for generations but high volume fracking is a game-changing development in the local history of community/gas company relations. Just 12 miles from the Pennsylvania border, news of the gas drilling boom that fracking has brought there, both good and bad, is never far away. Being directly in the path of the newly constructed Millennium Pipeline, Van Etten is a place that could see fracking far sooner than surrounding towns, should the method be approved in NY state. Landmen have been selling leases, neighbors have been making deals, various facilities have been proposed. Great controversy exists as to what fracking could mean in Van Etten and the stakes are as high as the very air, water and rural way of life most residents cherish.

At the same time, rural poverty is very real and employment is often low paying and a very long drive away for many residents. Fracking has been marketed as a miracle cure for economic hard times and many are as eager for an economic boon as they are to safeguard their home. Gas company PR is continuously deployed to exacerbate this tension. We cannot shy away from the complexity.

The Van Etten Listening Project
The Van Etten Listening Project (VELP) emerged from the efforts of  local farmers who had signed gas leases and were concerned about what the gas companies were up to after having negative experiences with them. Researching and speaking with others across the country, they learned of the havoc fracking had caused in other areas and realized that they had to do something to protect their home. They also realized that they would need some very thoughtful approaches.

VELP trained 50 volunteers in active listening, non-violent communication, basic community organizing skills and the complex economic and cultural factors involved. Most households in Van Etten were visited and interviewed over the course of two winters (2009 and 2010). Residents were asked about their hopes and desires for the future of their town, their experiences with gas companies, their perceptions about their neighbors attitudes towards gas drilling and more.

The extensive face-to-face listening grounded activists in a deep level of context and confidence in understanding the fracking issue in Van Etten and gave many residents an opportunity to discuss their strong feelings about an important issue, sometimes for the first time out loud to another person.

The Van Etten Listening Project ensured that community organizing in Van Etten would come from a humble and grounded place, informed from a broad perspective and a genuine desire to take other's needs into account.  Far from a cookie-cutter landowners vs environmentalists morality play, we found that many landowners and leaseholders had deep concerns about their land, water, air and rural lifeways and many concerns about the oil and gas industry that were not being discussed on television or in the newspapers. The widespread concerns over water issues led to the creation of Cayuga Catatonk Waterwatch -- an innovative community initiative whereby residents were trained by scientists to conduct extensive baseline water testing and stream and creek monitoring throughout local watersheds.

Listening Spreads
Inspired by the Van Etten Listening Project, community members in Dryden, New York carried out their own listening project and trainings and materials have been shared with other groups as well. We even shared materials with a group in Bolivia! Listening is a powerful place from which to build a movement. As climate change, resource depletion, inequality and economic austerity loom, every community increasingly find themselves in complicated social territory in uncertain times. Listening Projects can be a very powerful way to begin to restitch our social fabric and build the relationships from which creative and lasting change can emerge.


Dirk Trachy is a former NY farm worker and present day crisis specialist on a southwestern hotline where listening continues to be an important part of his life. He has a passion for social and environmental justice and is interested in just about everything.  

Get Involved
Are you interested in a listening project about fracking? Do you want to start your own local project? Contact us to learn about resources and training options in your area. Or tell others about us and/or send us contact information.