Connecting Communities through Conversation

NEWS // July 19, 2019

Connecting Communities through Conversation

Brittney Ochira, Outreach Manager, National Conflict Resolution Center

On June 14, 2019, more than 60 Vista Community Clinic staff members met with 11 Sheriff’s Department staff from within the clinic’s service region, including those from Vista, San Marcos, Poway, and Encinitas, to talk with each other about issues they see in their communities and to find the common ground needed to strengthen relationships.

The law enforcement/resident dialogue was made possible through the Live Well San Diego Exchange Program led by the National Conflict Resolution Center. The Center brings law enforcement officers and community members together to have dialogues about their experiences and to learn about the real people behind the labels or uniforms they see. Since the beginning of the initiative, over 1,400 people have participated in these community dialogues.

The staff from the Vista Community Clinic were interested in participating in this dialogue with local law enforcement to discuss law enforcement and community relations while also improving and developing more communication and conflict resolution skills.  The staff is embedded in the North County community both in the many ways they serve the community at the clinic (from medical needs, to addiction recovery support, to youth mentoring), but also as residents themselves.

One of the themes that emerged from the meeting was how easy it was for residents to think of the expectations they have for law enforcement, but that officers also have expectations for residents that often go unstated.  By bringing these expectations to the surface, the participants had a genuine dialogue about not just the services the community receives, but also about how everyone can be part of building a cohesive community.

“It was a great opportunity to come out and talk with people and just hear different perspectives, but also be able to talk about what we deal with and our perspective, and for everybody to have an open dialogue and learn from one another,” shared Adam Hipschen from the San Marcos Unit of the Sheriff’s Department.

The participants walked away with tools to improve relationships, not just between the residents and law enforcement officers who attended, but also when interacting with other representatives from the Sheriff’s Department or with the community members who use Vista Community Clinic’s services.  Many shared that they also planned to use the skills they learned in interactions with their friends, family, and in their work. By developing these skills, refugees are finding within themselves renewed confidence to achieve professional goals they might not have previously thought were possible.

One participant shared that she had not attended school back in Syria, so when she moved to San Diego and started taking classes at Grossmont College some people teased her, asking “Do you think you are going to become a doctor at your age, and with no education?” but she has persisted, advancing through the English as a Second Language (ESL) program, and is now set to enter the nursing program.  Her story and others like it have been part of the success of the Live Well San Diego Work Readiness Exchange, as the class reinforces and refocuses participants on the life skills they already possess so they can enter into the workforce with more confidence in their strengths.

The National Conflict Resolution Center is proud to partner with the County of San Diego in support of the Live Well San Diego vision to equip new San Diegans with important communication skills which not only boost the self-sufficiency of individual families but the cohesion of our San Diego community.