A Culture of Listening: Restoring Civic Dialog

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A Culture Of Listening shares alternative approaches to community engagement that have helped to bridge divides in rural northern New England at a time when our region feels especially polarized. Conventional approaches to community engagement often begin by identifying the values that are shared in a community and thereby unintentionally identify people with similar stories and experiences, who look and think like the organizers. Our approach was different; we explicitly sought to identify the fundamental differences in our community and respect them by making them more plainly visible and understandable. By giving our differences – especially our fundamental tension between production and consumption, an honest account we created the conditions for different people to be seen and heard and then to join others. We sought to connect through our differences not similarities. It’s not how we are alike that matters, it’s how we are different. We hope the example of this work opens new possibilities for scaling the empathy wall that often divides our communities.

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