connect / 2015

Social Justice Resilience and Community Building

Idea submitted in the My LA2050 Maker Challenge by Center for Council, a project of Community Partners

We work with local social justice organizations to implement Council Practice. To serve the needs of the populations they serve, these organizations must develop their capacity to listen deeply and compassionately so as to understand both the context and history of the underlying issues. The practice of deep listening without judgment fosters an atmosphere of respect for one’s self and others, promotes empathy, understanding and cooperation.

In what areas of Los Angeles will you be directly working?

  • Central LA
  • East LA
  • San Gabriel Valley
  • San Fernando Valley
  • South LA
  • Westside

How do you plan to use these resources to make change?

  • Expand a pilot or a program

How will your proposal improve the following “Connect” metrics?

  • Adults getting sufficient social & emotional support

Describe in greater detail how you will make LA the best place to connect.

A critical challenge for social justice organizations as they advocate for positive social change is to listen deeply to the communities in which they work. These organizations are mission-driven to voice the needs of the populations they serve and, therefore, staff must develop a capacity to listen deeply to understand both the context and history of the underlying issues embedded within these populations and the history that lives in the stories of individual community members and their families.

In addition to the opportunity to hear the voice of the population they serve, when a staff participates in Council, an opportunity emerges for employees and peers to develop greater rapport, trust and a deeper sense of community. Integrating Council practice creates a healthier and more nurturing workplace, which fosters greater cooperation, motivation and creativity that then supports innovation, increased productivity and better decision-making. Inviting deep listening and giving permission to speak authentically, allows employees to trust that they will not be judged or shut down for speaking heartfully in Council. Thus, the workplace becomes a rich environment for greater individual self-expression, group affirmation and collegial bonding, becoming an effective antidote to burnout. Council may be understood to be the embodiment of compassion in community. Groups and organizations that incorporate this practice of collective mindfulness, awareness of self and surroundings, regulation and cultivation of healthy communication and behavior create environments of care, compassion, and community wellness. The indigenous wisdom traditions from which this work has emerged have known about the great benefits of ceremony and ritual and have gathered around the fire for countless generations to share stories, norm shared values and celebrate commonalities. Agencies and organizations, schools, prisons, communities and families can use the skills taught by Center for Council to create greater community wellness, which will be evidenced in significant positive shifts in personal health (lower stress, less stress-related disease, greater attention), group health (better communication, more empathy, deeper cooperation) and community health (more pro-social, compassion-centered engagement). These health outcomes are consistently observed and increasingly measured in program evaluation of our work.

Please explain how you will evaluate your work.

We will employ an internal evaluation methodology for this program, which we developed in partnership with RAND Corp and which will include administration of pre and post surveys, anonymous feedback forms, and anecdotal and narrative self-¬report accounts of the project’s impacts. We will evaluate: perceptions of authentic interpersonal connection, self-reported feelings of support and recognition versus isolation within staff groups, organizational resilience in instances of change or hardship, participants’ understanding of the council form and process, impact of the council process on organizational function and client interactions, organizational readiness for the project, degree to which the organization’s specific stated objectives were met, overall effectiveness of council trainers, including cultural sensitivity and self-awareness, whether appropriate referrals were available and known to participants, and retention and engagement of council trained staff.

How can the LA2050 community and other stakeholders help your proposal succeed?

  • Money (financial capital)
  • Volunteers/staff (human capital)
  • Publicity/awareness (social capital)
  • Infrastructure (building/space/vehicles, etc.)
  • Education/training
  • Technical infrastructure (computers, etc.)
  • Community outreach
  • Network/relationship support
  • Quality improvement research