Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Host/Facilitator guide

Provided by Justin Carbonella

Middletown Community Conversation
Inaugural Celebration (Jan. 20, 2009)

Additional Information Session for Host of Community Conversation
Thursday, January 15, 2009, Russell Library

Who are you, what agency do you represent?
Why did you decide to be a part of this initiative?

Principles of the Community Conversations
The idea is for the community to watch President Obama's inaugural address at 12 noon or at 6pm (or some other time) and participate in a facilitated community conversation. This gathering is not a political event. It is grassroots initiative to identify the assets that we all have and how we can deploy them in these difficult times.

We will record the discussion and work to prioritize ideas that may help Middletown proactively contribute to and take advantage of this current moment in history.

To do so, we are looking for locations all across the community to hold community conversations. Additionally, we are asking each site to adhere to the following principles:

• Set the context
• Create hospitable space
• Explore questions that matter
• Encourage everyone’s contributions
• Connect diverse perspectives
• Listen together for insights
• Share collective discoveries

Your role as hosts/facilitators
The role of each host and its facilitator will be to manage the community conversation at their site. We are allowing each site to determine what will work best for them as they follow the basic principles outlined above. You know your group and your constituents best while also understanding what resources you may have available to you. We also understand that these resources will change from site to site. The important thing is giving as many Middletown residents as possible a chance to join their fellow citizens and be a part of a conversation where everyone’s voice may be heard. Much of that comes with the ability of the host to create a comfortable environment that will allow for open and honest discussion. Imagine you were inviting a guest to your house, what you would do for them to make them feel welcomed?

What are the questions that matter?
“If I had an hour to solve a problem and my life depended on the solution, I would spend the first 55 minutes determining the proper question to ask, for once I know the proper question, I could solve the problem in less than five minutes.” – Albert Einstein

“Questioning breaks open the stagnant, hardened shells of the present, opening up options to be explored” – Fran Peavey, Strategic Questioning

Principals of Strategic Questions
• Be engaging, invite further learning, and assume the best of intentions in the hearer.
• Help the hearer move on the basis of their strengths, their logic about how change occurs, and their environment.
• Be asked at the right time, with a few simple words, and by someone whom the hearer truly respects.
• Be truly open (not be asked manipulatively, and/or in order to achieve a particular answer, and/or worded in a way that contains or suggests a solution)

Examples of strategic Questions
• How might we best get this done?
• What experiences are influencing how you perceive this issue?
• What might shift our situation for the better?
• What kinds of information, from what sources, do we value?
• How has change happened here in the past?
• How and why did this issue first surface? What’s change?
• How can we redesign “x” to be more efficient?

Sample questions for your conversations
If “yes we can”, then what will I do?
Related to what will “I do”, what can we do together?
What resources do we need to make this happen?

Recording the conversation and looking for outcomes
The goal is to collect results that will culminate in an unprecedented document of what Middletown's citizens feel are the priorities for our City. The collective statement of needs and concerns is the first step toward effective change in our community.

To do this we need a recorded document of what were the identified solutions and steps for a better Middletown at each conversation site. We are asking that a simple bulleted list of these solutions and steps is created for each question asked (or that come up at any point in the discussion). The information can be recorded as raw data and the host organization will not have to synthesis or analyze the material in any way.

Basic responsibilities for a recorder to consider:
• Record the group’s answers to each of the questions
• List key points (examples, elaborations) offered to flesh out or provide the rationale for the group’s answers to each of the agenda questions. Include name of person if they indicate they would like to be followed up with.
• Keep a parking lot list for issues that don’t directly address agenda topics
• Ask for clarification when something is unclear
• Review notes at the close of meeting, to clarify or fill in gaps in the record
• Record notes in a written document

For an example of what we are looking for feel free to visit the Youth Services website at www.middletownyouthservices.org click on “Developmental Assets Initiative” then “What’s Up With Our Kids Forum Series”. The 4/26 and 5/9 conversations have similar reporting forms to what we are looking for in terms of sharing data. Your group’s final document should include the following information as a heading to the document:

group/organization involved
location of discussion
date and time
number of attendees

If a group would also like to include a list of its attendees and their email addresses you include it in your final reports. Please note that the request for emails is so that the final document may be distributed back out to the community once complete.

Your recorded notes may be submitted to Justin Carbonella at carbonellaj@mps1.org or mailed to:

Justin Carbonella
Middletown Youth Services Bureau
370 Hunting Hill Ave
Middletown, CT 06457

Or be dropped off at the Youth Services Bureau offices located in Woodrow Wilson Middle School (located at the address directly above).

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