By Tina Marsan
The Covid 19 crisis has catapulted the nation and world at large into a state of disarray. Fear, has become a prominent mindset. Trust has been diminished. Respect for humankind is being tested and communication has become jagged, hyper-emotional, difficult and even destructive.
People are struggling to navigate through this unprecedented crisis. The trials are very personal. Families, businesses and communities are suffering as a result of inconsistent information put forth by government and healthcare officials. The media outlets – leading newspapers, television networks and social media are sharing extremely different points of views, in the name of “factual” which is resulting in severe social conflict and division.
Add to this the fact that this is an election year, a time historically filled with tension. However now we are experiencing political stress on steroids! How can we work together in order to move forward in the healthiest way as individuals and as a community at large?
The Community Conversation Forum was birthed from the observations and concerns listed above. Their mission is straight forward:
“To provide an open and honest forum where participants can cultivate respectful conversation and examine issues relevant to current health and social concerns in an effort to educate, support and protect our community.”
On Sunday, October 18, 2020 the founders Jen Terhune and Linda Margaretic and their group ‘Community Conversations’ invited, community members to participate in a public Forum moderated by Holly George. The attendees were diverse in nature allowing for a breadth of perspective and differing views.
The purpose of this specific gathering was to – Explore Framework for How to Engage Diverse Viewpoints in Respectful Conversation. People introduced themselves and submitted one key word that made them think of “Healthy Community.” The end result was a list comprised of every one’s ideas. It was a wonderful start to what ended up being a very successful gathering.
The framework of the meeting included thought provoking questions addressed during both small group and large group engagements. People contemplated and answered a few specific questions, such as – What is needed to engage diverse viewpoints in safe conversations? What are some limitations or obstacles to talking and working together?
Each group was given a specific topic derived from the list created during the introduction time. One topic addressed the issue of food security for the community and the other addressed the provision of healthy businesses within the community. As a whole the topics, the engagement and the objective of the meeting was achieved.
Attendees had an opportunity to evaluate the meeting. It was revealed that everyone felt safe sharing their ideas and beliefs and that the meeting holds promise for productive and respectful communication during these tumultuous times.