We are a 501 (c) (3) non-profit organization originally founded as the Rural Southern Voice for Peace (RSVP) in 1982. Based within the Celo Community and mountains of western North Carolina, our initial focus was on finding and supporting new and effective strategies for social change in the southeast region of the U.S. Now known as The Listening Project, our organization has worked with hundreds of national and international community-based organizations to overcome divisions caused by social and economic injustice, as well as ethnic, racial, religious and cultural conflicts. The Listening Project training and resources can enable communities to find unity on issues of health, education, sustainability, and countless other forms of community strengthening and development.

Herb Walters, the founder of RSVP, started the organization with support from his wife Marnie, the Arthur Morgan School, Celo Friends Meeting, and other residents in the Celo Community and Yancey County, North Carolina. Herb initiated the first Listening Project in St. Marys, Georgia in 1986.

Here is what Herb Walters, retired founder of The Listening Project, has to say about the work:

“We suffer greatly from polarization that reduces differences into conflict—making no space for finding common ground. At the heart of our deep listening is empathy, “Walking in another person’s shoes.” Empathy requires compassion and understanding, even when we are listening to someone who speaks words of injustice. When we are able to find a way to understand and affirm the other person, rather than focus on what is wrong, we begin to build trust. Trust then opens a door to communication that can lead to new thoughts and creative ideas that can be realized through grassroots community organizing and action.”