1. Tell us a bit about the project you are working on at UCHI.
My project is called Hartford Listens. The basic idea is to hold community dialogues using the “dialogue-to-change” approach in multiple locations around Hartford on an ongoing basis.
2. What drew you to this topic and what exciting developments are you anticipating?
I have been doing community engagement work in Hartford for many years. I have found myself constantly looking for ways to help Hartford residents and others achieve community-driven, positive change to make the city an even better place than it is today. I discovered community dialogues or, more specifically “dialogue and deliberation,” several years ago, ie, bringing people together for facilitated, small group discussion that is designed to enable participants to tell their story, listen to others, build mutual understanding, and take action together. I am especially intrigued with the “dialogue-to-change” method developed by an organization called Everyday Democracy. I have organized a number of individual community dialogues of this kind, but the goal of Hartford Listens is to achieve a sort of a multiplier effect by holding dialogues continuously in a variety of locations around the city. If this can be done successfully, it could potentially have a transformative impact in Hartford. This work is especially important now when our nation is so fractured. Community dialogues can help people find common ground.
3. What are you looking forward to in regard to this year at UCHI?
I am very excited about being a Fellow at UCHI. It will give me a chance to focus on my project with fewer distractions than I normally have, which is exactly what I need to move the Hartford Listens idea forward. Just as important, I will be able to share ideas and perspectives with others, and learn from their work. I know this will have a positive impact as I continue to develop Hartford Listens. I am very grateful for this wonderful opportunity.
4. Many people wonder what value the humanities and humanities research has in today’s world. What are your thoughts on what humanities scholarship “brings to table?”
As it applies to my work, the humanities brings a great deal to the table. The concept of balancing conviction with intellectual humility is one to which the Humanities Institute has devoted much research and energy in recent years, and it is very much intertwined with my work in dialogue and deliberation. In addition, the Encounters series is a fine example of the important role of the humanities in dialogue work.