Thursday, December 31, 2015

Year End Assessment: Coffee House Conversations Project

Bottom Line: Community dialogue in our locale has been a promising first step, but only a first step. 

We’ve still a long way to go, if systemic change of the whole is our aim. Which for New Horizons it definitely is.

As New Horizons first year of Coffee House Conversations began to wind down, following our final 2015 conversation’s event on December 5, Coffee House Conversation #3 on Humanizing our Citizen-Police Relations, my mind instinctively moved to assessment. 

What had we accomplished in this year of approximately nine major Coffee House Conversation events and many energetic behind-the- scenes planning meeting?

Pluses and minuses from a year well spent. What was our net?

At the top of the list, certainly, is that New Horizons made a lot of new friends, drew people together of a like-minded bent, at least those having a yearning to connect through dialogue with the hope of strengthening our shared spaces.

A promising first step! With that I am pleased and gratified.

Then there was the downside that I began to pore over; the weak spots that, when viewed from a reflective distance, were of concern to me.

Here are a few of these.  They are already showing up on my 2016 “to do” list insofar as I/we (meaning the collective at New Horizons) can be a part of solutions.

Areas where our program and participants need to develop proficiency, if true “exceptional community” development is a goal, which it most certainly is for us.
  • Being able to truly enter into dialogue and move beyond debate with emotionally charged issues;
  • Risking getting into emotionally charged issues that will need to be addressed if genuine community health is desired;
  • Conflict resolution (at New Horizons we call this moving from “snags to synergy);”
  • Learning to truly “lean in” to people who are different or who hold markedly different viewpoints, especially where emotionally charged issues present and need to be addressed for the good of the whole;
  • Developing compassion and understanding regarding differences;
  • Developing endurance and patience with the process of systematic community change upon which we are only newly embarking.
As I end this year of 2015, still recuperating from my recent cornea transplant surgery, these items are high on my list. I hope they are, also, objectives that matter to others in my neighborhood who will be courage enough to pursue them. These do, indeed, take a courage not everyone has -- yet. (Maybe they will later when they find out the benefits.)

On behalf of my devoted New Horizons Board of Directors, this is our way of saying that we are certain that the societal change to which we are committed is, indeed, a process, not an event, even a series of them as richly rewarding as our 2015 Coffee House Conversations.

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