Rural Southern Voice for Peace (RSVP) which serves as the Listening Project Training and Resource Center, is a 501-c-3 tax exempt, non-profit organization. RSVP was founded in 1981 by Herb and Marnie Walters, with support from the Celo Friends Meeting, Arthur Morgan School and the wider Celo community in the mountains of western North Carolina. We currently have two staff members, Herb Walters, director/trainer, and Dixie Pomerat, administrative support; a seven-member board of directors; and a network of experienced LP organizers and trainers.
RSVP's initial activity was publication of a newsletter that carried stories and information about effective work for peace, justice and the environment in the rural south. RSVP articles and information came from our readers who often worked in very difficult and isolated conditions throughout the rural South. We promoted methods of working for social change based on models from the civil rights movement as well as new, culturally sensitive approaches that could be effective in conservative, rural southern communities.
As early as 1981 Herb had begun, outside of his RSVP work, developing the first Listening Project prototypes. In 1984 RSVP's newsletter continued as a vital networking tool for activists, and Herb began to travel throughout the southeast region, providing direct assistance and networking opportunities to social change groups. As Herb listened to the people he visited, it became clear that people everywhere were looking for more inclusive, effective and less polarizing methods of working for social change. Thus in 1985 Herb began developing the Listening Project as a part of RSVP’s program work. The first RSVP Listening Project was organized at the east coast home of the Trident nuclear submarine base in St. Marys Georgia, in 1986. This project helped peace activists build common ground, friendship and support with community residents and naval base personnel. Within several years time, RSVP's training and organizing expanded to both a national and international focus with continued development of the Listening Project.
RSVP now serves as the International Listening Project Training and Resource Center (LPTRC), providing training, consultation, trainer referral and many LP resources including a manual for LP organizers and trainers (Resources Library). Our newsletter, which later became a larger Journal called , "Voices" is no longer published. We now send out smaller “News and Needs” letter once or twice a year (Join Our Mailing List).
RSVP director, Herb Walters, continues to provide direct training and organizing assistance to organizations conducting Listening Projects. We also conduct training for LP organizers and trainers. Thus, we can refer you to a network of trained/experienced LP trainers and organizing consultants. If after becoming fully informed, your organization would like to conduct a Listening Project, you can get information about costs and training by clicking on Request Training.
"Since 1986 RSVP has offered Listening Projects in dozens of tension-torn communities as an alternative to conventional activist approaches - debates, protests, vigils, litigation, civil disobedience. Coming into volatile situations and confronting issues that might send seasoned mediators running for cover, they use compassionate listening - as a way to understand underlying problems, introduce new ideas, and to help communities develop their own positive solutions for change. This process not only uncovers and empowers many "bystanders" who have feared to speak out or have never been involved - it often brings opponents, even bitter adversaries, face to face in a nonviolent way, helping to build durable community bridges to reconciliation and peace."
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