The North Hill Listening Project is one of the IIA’s most recent projects to address “Multi-Ethnic Conflict” in our community. At the IIA, we will always see diversity as a strength, but sharing the gifts of our differences does not always come easily. All over the country, people are feeling the impacts of fear and division, and they have not been missed by the communities that we serve, nor are they new to many of Akron’s residents. However, we have also seen the power of neighbors reaching out to one another. We’ve heard countless stories from community members who have found friends in their international carpools, who have made visits to newly arrived neighbors to later find hot meals brought to their door, and who have learned new recipes and new dances from the same people they trust to watch their homes when they are away. We began addressing multi-ethnic conflict because we know that a welcoming community starts with welcoming neighbors.
To transform conflict into neighborhood connections, the IIA is taking direction from the people of North Hill through the North Hill Listening Project. Listening Projects have long been used to understand communities’ concerns and bridge divides. Rural Southern Voices for Peace (RSVP) began using Listening Projects in 1981 to address racial tensions in North Carolina and has since championed the use of Listening Project across the United States and internationally. The North Hill Listening Project is based on the work of RSVP and seeks to create a platform for the members of the North Hill community to have their voices heard and honored.
On January 20th, 2018, the IIA and its partners held a training for “Listeners,” community members and stakeholders who will go out to interview North Hill residents about their experiences with multi-ethnic conflict. Twenty-four Listeners will conduct approximately fifty interviews from residents of all different backgrounds by mid-March of 2018. Following the interviews, participants’ answers will be processed and the findings shared among North Hill’s residents and stakeholders and incorporated into the IIA’s Conflict Management Strategy. The Listeners will ask questions about participants’ relationships with people of other backgrounds and what they need to create a more welcoming North Hill. By the end of the project, the IIA hopes to have a clear path for how multi-ethnic conflict can be resolved and new, stronger relationships created though the work of community members and IIA’s programs.
The North Hill Listening Project is overseen by Susan Berg-Herman, Director of New Initiatives at the IIA, and is led Liz Schmidt, IIA Consultant, Akronite Jacquelyn Bleak, M.S. Conflict Analysis and Resolution, and IIA interns Amanda Schwaben, Jenna Lada, M.S. Conflict and Dispute Resolution. Special thanks go to Jacquelyn Bleak, Joseph Bocchicchio, and Patricia Wyatt for their instrumental roles in the Listener Training, as well as Akron-Summit County Public Library North Hill Branch.
Any questions about the North Hill Listening Project or interview recommendations can be sent to email@example.com.