by Joanna Stensland, Library Administration & HR Assistant
Picture this scenario: two people are on opposing sides of an issue. Each is fully convinced they’re right. They forcefully state their convictions. But neither is truly listening to the other. Maybe you’ve seen it with individuals or organizations, stuck in stalemate and antagonism. In today’s frequently polarized climate, how do we even begin to talk with those with whom we disagree?
Fortunately, there is a pathway into communication that connects us: it’s called Estes Valley Community Conversations (EVCC), a collaboration between Estes Valley Restorative Justice Partnership and the Estes Valley Library. The mission: to improve public communication, promote active community problem-solving and elevate conversations in the Estes Valley. This means that when, as a community, we are faced with difficult issues, we can engage, collaboratively and productively. The vision of EVCC: a kind community based on respect and collaborative problem-solving.
So how is Estes Valley Community Conversations pursuing this mission and vision? EVCC provides space for everyone to have a voice, learning with–and from–each other. EVCC provides a framework for dialogue and building understanding. By examining critical topics and issues, these community conversations create a restorative environment where everyone listens and everyone feels they are being heard.
EVCC is using two successful models for effective dialogue. One is Living Room Conversations, where each participant has a chance to listen and be heard, on a range of topics. Several conversations just happened as part of Conflict Resolution Month. The next conversation explores the idea and concepts of Restorative Justice, on November 16 at 4 pm (sign up at estesvalleylibrary.org).
Another model is Public Deliberation. In these conversations, participants discuss “wicked problems”: issues where competing values are so strong, solutions seem impossible. Through the Public Deliberation process, new awareness emerges for all, with high potential for better decision-making and solutions.
Anyone interested in learning more–and helping guide future Public Deliberation events–is encouraged to attend a two-part training on Friday, November 5 and 12, from 8 am to noon each day. Find out more and apply through EVRJP at www.estes.org/restorativejustice. To find out more about the Estes Valley Community Conversations program and partnership, go to www.estes.org/communityconversations. These efforts may not change the world. But locally, and together, we can create the kind of community we all want to live in.