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Community Conversations

Communication is a key social work skill. Sometimes written communication is great, while other times, verbal communication is more effective.

At the SSW, anyone can call us together for a Community Conversation - about any topic impacting students that they think lends itself best to verbal communication. We take these conversations seriously, so thought has been given to the format and process.

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The Format

Because we are a diverse community, Community Conversations may happen in person, via Zoom, or both. To promote conversation, participation will be limited to 50 people. If that isn't enough room - we will host another one!

The Model

SSW Community Conversations are guided by principles and practices of intergroup dialogue and restorative practices. For that reason, we use a set format for the conversations. The model for our Community Conversations was a co-creation of faculty and students.

You can start with these quick videos:

The Process

We will begin with a welcome and opening, which includes an introduction of the topic and a summary of our Invitations for Engagement (below). Space will then be open for discussion. Each Community Conversation will end with a closing.

Throughout the process, facilitators will be available to help us remain in our community conversation model, and to encourage us to remain committed to our Invitations for Engagement.

Invitations for Engagement

Invitations for Engagement will serve as the basis for our "group guidelines" or “group norms.” These guidelines were adapted from The Program for Intergroup Relations. Based on the topic, these invitations can be modified or adapted.

  1. Be present and engaged. In order for people to share vulnerably and bravely, we must all be invested in the conversation. It is important that we commit to being present, staying engaged, and avoiding the use of electronic devices or checking out in other visible ways.
  2. Listen to learn, not to respond. We invite people to listen generously with the intent to understand rather than to interject or get our own point across. Sometimes we should listen even harder when someone is saying something about which we disagree, so that we can try to understand the perspective being shared.
  3. Be aware of intent and impact. We often refer to the difference between intent and impact. In reality, both are important. We hope we are all committed to coming to the conversation with positive intentions, AND we know that even with the best of intentions, sometimes our impact can still be hurtful. Let’s be aware of, and take responsibility for, both.
  4. Anticipate unfinished business and disagreement. We will probably not resolve all issues in a single discussion — and because we are a diverse community, we are unlikely to find uniform agreement. That is OK! It reflects the world in which we will be practicing social work. We invite people to see these Community Conversations as a first step, and as an invitation to further discussion, engagement, personal growth and relationship building.

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