Churning beneath the surface of our nation’s crisis of socio-political hostility are questions of community, connection, and engagement. What does it mean for us to be in community? How do we stay connected when all we see are differences? How do we problem-solve together in the midst of deep and painful division?
Rather than attack or retreat from ideological perspectives that challenge our own (thus neglecting the relationships that shape our communities), our project partnership advocates carefully structured conversation between perceived ideological adversaries to strengthen connection and relationship, even while engaging difference.
Utah Community Partners’ project mission is to develop the capacity of community leaders in Utah seeking to become skilled, experienced facilitators and supporters of difficult but necessary community dialogues fully engaging difference.
We aim to build the strength and capacity of an expansive group of facilitators across the state to simultaneously offer effective and transformative experiences of dialogue and stoke public awareness that this type of dialogue is not only possible, but crucial to the future of civic life in Utah, and indeed, the country as a whole.
Our partnership focuses specifically on Utah because, in addition to a pronounced need for change, organizations and citizens from across the state have already begun building the kind of framework needed for a comprehensive effort to inspire a new era of civic engagement.
We will train two cohorts of local leaders in the art of facilitating structured dialogues about difference, and support them as they work in various communities around the state. We anticipate these two cohorts alone will impact 2,500 citizens through direct conversations, with thousands more reached online. These estimates will grow over each year of additional work and will multiply with each new cohort of trained facilitators, especially as the individuals touched by these events and interactions share with even more people around them.
This project will infuse networks built by Village Square and Living Room Conversations with Essential Partners’ Reflective Structured Dialogue skills to accelerate the flourishing of a robust civic ecosystem in Utah. We believe these trainings and dialogues will further equip and empower the local citizens who have been convened and energized by Living Room Conversations and Village Square over recent years - allowing the work of both organizations to expand and multiply throughout the state.
This commitment to collaborative, ongoing engagement of multiple models of civic engagement and community-building across ideologies and identities will serve as a pilot for developing similar initiatives in other states and will serve as a model for research and writing based on evaluation results.