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What a Listening Project Does
- Identifies problems and issues that people care about
- Includes often unheard or unheeded voices
- Fosters the emergence and development of new community leaders
- Generates creative solutions for community needs and problems
- Disseminates issue-related information and determines needs for additional information
- Encourages personal growth as all involved consider new viewpoints and information
- Forms uncommon coalitions and alliances through which diverse viewpoints can resolve - rather than clash over - difficult issues
- Promotes insight, empathy, and understanding among people with conflicting views
- Creates long-term capacity for grassroots community building
US Projects | International Projects
Examples in the United States
In Harlan County, Kentucky, the groundwater and soil of the town of Dayhoit have been severely poisoned by chemicals from a plant that cleans mining equipment. Health problems are widespread, but many residents are uninformed or afraid to speak out. The Concerned Citizens Against Toxic Waste (CCATW) used a Listening Project to document the effects of the contamination and to educate people. They found so many new supporters that their new problem was how to involve them all.
"The Listening Project helped people bring out things that normally they won't talk about. It really helped with the kidney study we just finished. People were so willing to participate because of the positive contact we'd made through the Listening Project."
In North Carolina, a three-year Partners in Sustainable Agriculture project utilized Listening Projects to help increase understanding and support for sustainable agriculture in traditional farm communities. It also helped communities establish priorities and build support for successful and sustainable agriculture efforts in such areas as pasture management, new product/market development and helping farmers make the transition from dependence on tobacco.
SOCIAL JUSTICE AND COMMUNITY DEVELOPMENT
In Keysville, Georgia, city officials and a local grassroots organization, joined to conduct two Listening Projects -- on racial conflict and on community development initiatives being hampered by racial tensions, apathy and misunderstanding. These Listening Projects helped Keysville move forward with greater citizen and interracial support. The projects also contributed to the strengthening of grassroots campaigns for clean water, literacy, health services and other successful community development efforts.
"I don't think we could have done this without their help. I believe (the Listening Project) played a positive role in opening communication and helping us understand each other and how to work together."
In Florida, neighborhood listening projects have empowered low income and minority resident councils to make vitally needed changes in their communities. In Winchester, Virginia, residents in an African American neighborhood plagued by drugs sales, trash, and poor housing organized to conduct a Listening Project. In its wake the North End Citizens formed to implement recommendations suggested by neighborhood residents, and quickly transformed previously contentious relationships with police and city officials into cooperative ones. Over the next several years this coalition provided grassroots leadership in creating a community center, a youth organization, a nonviolence program at the neighborhood elementary school, effective citizen-police programs, and brought many quality-of-life improvements to the neighborhood.
In West Virginia a coalition of four organizations conducted a LP with over 160 current and former welfare recipients. The results helped bring brought about statewide progressive welfare reform.
In North Carolina and Atlanta, Georgia, the Religion and Diversity project helped open communication, understanding and support between religious leaders and gay and lesbian people.
HEALTH AND JUSTICE
In North Carolina, the WNCA Listening Project in Asheville helped dispel misinformation and reduce tensions in a neighborhood fighting development of an agency home for men with AIDS. The home is now in operation.
The Health for Hispanics Project, sponsored by a coalition of community health organizations in Yancey County, led to development of improved health services and a lay health advisor program for a relatively new and growing Hispanic community. Years earlier, the Toe River Health District conducted a Breastfeeding LP that helped women increase public and business support for women who choose to breastfeed their child.
"Among its many accomplishments, last week a large factory employing primarily women, agreed to have an electric breast pump placed in their facility. We all feel the project was a huge success."
In South Carolina, The Georgia Advocacy Office developed their annual priorities and goals based on what they learned from listening to those they serve -- 236 developmentally disabled people served by twenty eight different agencies and facilities.
PEACE AND JUSTICE
In Connecticut the New England War Resisters League conducted a Listening Project that helped make possible a community plan for economic conversion, from a military to a civilian based economy. In Georgia the Trident to Life Campaign used a Listening Project to find allies and support for their education and action work at the Trident Nuclear Submarine base in St. Marys. In North Carolina the Piedmont Peace Project used a Listening Project to strengthen their organization which is based in low-income and minority communities. In Pittsburgh, PA., Kansas City, MO., Tucson, AZ., Akron, OH, Listening Projects organized by the American Friends Service Committee included the successful mobilization of thousands of youth and people of color in speaking out, registering, voting and acting for peace and progressive social change.
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In August 1992, a Listening Project helped reduce war-time ethnic tensions between Serbs and Muslims in the in the Serbian village of Brestovac, Yugoslavia. In the East Slavonia region of Croatia, the Center for Peace, Nonviolence and Human Rights has used Listening Projects as the foundation for their successful post-war reconciliation work in six ethnically divided communities. Peace Teams of four to six members working in each of six communities, have used the findings and relationships coming out of Listening Projects to build positive relations and programs for peace and community development.
"Listening Project is the basic instrument in peace building both at the level of the individual and the community. Only when communication was opened, were people who had been separated by war and ethnic hatred, able to show readiness for cooperation and activism in the community."
In Palau, Micronesia, the Compact of Free Association would determine Palau's independence, its relationship to the U.S. and its nuclear-free status. National referendums on the issue had completely divided the nation and resulted in violence. Through a Listening Project, members of the Catholic Commission on Justice and Development were able to communicate about this volatile issue in such a way that they were asked by people on both sides of the issue to develop a public education program on the Compact. This project also identified grassroots priorities and volunteers for community organizing.
"Palauan society is a competitive society and people are unfamiliar with this concept of listening. I'd always heard the expression 'Listen to people with an open mind' but, until now, I never really understood the meaning of the phrase. The Palauan Listening project has been a life-changing experience for me. It changes my whole way of looking at things."
In Nicaragua, RSVP participated in Witness for Peace and later conducted the Contra Listening Project. This project interviewed 50 Contra fighters who had been involved in a ruthless, U.S. backed war against the Sandinistas and the citizenry of Nicaragua. The project put a human face on individuals in the Contra army that many in the peace movement had come to see as the enemy. It called for integrating reconciliation into the work for peace and ending U.S. interference in Nicaragua.
"The Contra Listening Project is controversial, but that's not the half of it. We think it asks the most important questions that the peace movement has asked itself since the Vietnam War."
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