Brittney Ochira, Outreach Manager, National Conflict Resolution Center
In the spirit of showing up for one another, over 75 attendees from diverse religious, ethnic and ideological backgrounds came together on July 25th for a community dialogue in a series called “A Path Forward.”
The four-part series is led by the National Conflict Resolution Center in partnership with the San Diego Union-Tribune, and numerous partners from various faith-based, secular and interfaith groups in San Diego. The first event was hosted by the Jewish Community Center and the Jewish Community Foundation.
The theme of this first dialogue was “Be Curious,” and attendees were randomly assigned to five restorative circles, where they could interact on a more intimate level with people whom they had never met before, and to put into practice not only what we want to be, but how we want to be as a cohesive community. Attendees had the opportunity to hear each other’s stories of personal identities, whether religious, cultural, occupational, or otherwise, and how they have either been celebrated or have experienced harm from the larger community for that identity.
The impact of practicing curiosity and active listening was profound: based on surveys conducted before and after the circle, people who participated reported an increase in feeling safe speaking openly in a group of people, in the conviction that as a community, we can find solutions to difficult problems, and in the belief that a group can reach consensus on challenging issues.
Following the restorative circle dialogue, there was an action-planning session, where attendees looked forward by sharing their hopes and goals, took inventory of the resources that are already available, and planned tangible actions. Participants walked away with ideas for how to bring more civil discourse and cohesion into their children’s schools, their workplaces, and their communities.
This dialogue will be followed up by three additional events this year. Each event will both build on the last, and be useful as a standalone dialogue, so participants are encouraged to come to as many of the dialogues as possible. The events are open to the public, and will be hosted by various partners:
· Be Brave, September 4th, 5:30-8:30 pm, Bayview Baptist Church
· Be Connected, October 20th, 2:00-5:00 pm, Islamic Center San Diego
· Be Supported, December 2nd, 6:30-9:30 pm, USS Midway Museum
Restorative Community Circles are part of the Live Well San Diego Exchange program funded by County of San Diego Community Action Partnership. If you are interested in participating in these dialogues and in building more cohesion in San Diego County, visit: www.NCRConline.com/communitycircles