From the email list January 2013...
I was very moved recently by my friend and colleague Heather Tischbein’s story about a recent community conversation in Vancouver, Washington. Called as a response to the recent Sandy Hook massacre, participants were invited to explore the following questions at their café tables:
First round: What concerns you about isolation contributing to acts of violence, despair or suicide?
Second round: What does connection mean to you? What are the beliefs, values, and principles that will cause a renewing of connection in our community?
Third round: What can I do personally, in my own world (family, organization, community) to reduce isolation and to promote a life of community? What are the barriers to you connecting deeply with another?
After the three rounds, participants shared the main themes of their small-group conversations in a large-group format. Then, as a closing question, participants were invited to respond to the question: What are you personally willing to do, to create more connection in your community?
Heather described how the framing of the questions invited participants to explore the root causes of violence in our society, and to thoughtfully consider the forces that may have contributed to the tragic actions taken by Adam Lanza. She also mentioned how during the second round, participants explored many aspects of the "connection" question: their desire for greater connection, the fear of vulnerability that connection engenders, as well as the dynamics and trade-offs involved in our myths of frontier independence and common good/in-it-all-together interdependence.
Heather also spoke about finding this experience particularly moving, as she had originally brought the World Café format to this community, as part of the Ft. Vancouver Regional Library’s Make Democracy Work project (2004-2006). It was especially affirming to her to see how the practice has spread over the years. She learned about this gathering through a friend’s Facebook post and felt very nourished to be able to attend this meaningful event as a participant.
A more detailed harvest will soon be available from the organizer Kevin Heibert. If people are interested I can post it here when it becomes available.