belonging starts with
note from executive director Becca Kearl
For the first time in several years, I had a Living Room Conversation in my actual living room. Friends who identified as conservative, libertarian, progressive, and moderate came together in the space post-overturning of Roe v. Wade, pre- Midterm Elections. I watched their initial hesitance (one said he was so nervous he almost threw up) melt into laughter, ease, and tears as we took turns listening to the story behind the story we each shared. We had unanimous agreement that freedom of choice was a fundamental American value while grappling with what that looked like in different contexts. One friend said, “I don’t know why we think we need to agree all the time, I don’t agree with my husband on most things, but we’re still happy and together.” In that conversation, we moved past the pressure to agree on everything. Instead, we created belonging– we created community.
At Living Room Conversations we want everyone to experience the magic of feeling seen and heard in their individual lives, joys, pain, and frustrations. 2022 was full of those moments!
We focused on Mental Health and Belonging as major themes this year and created a Mental Health Resources page. One of our high school Youth Council members created a Mental Health for Youth guide and talked about the added pressures of youth today: a sense of instability in not knowing what your future will look like and the fear of messing up that life before it starts, how growing up in a tense social climate (divisive politics, cancel culture, “doxxing,” Twitter trolls) makes it harder for you to trust others in your personal life, and how questioning and disagreeing with the values of your family, religion, culture, or a previous generation can make you feel lost when you try to find your own. Our Racial Equity Partner (also a high school educator) created Mental Health for Educators and piloted it with a cohort of her peers in an Education Leadership Masters Program: “Teaching is not at all what I expected. Some things are better and some things are worse. No one prepares you for the students who are killed. No one prepares you for the way we move on in the hood. It seems like grief counselors are only reserved for kids in the suburbs.”
The current headlines promote a message of intractability, we can’t collaborate, we’re too polarized, 15% of Republicans and 20% of Democrats say we’d be better off if large numbers of the opposite party “just died”…. We want to paint a different picture– people gathering online, in living rooms, churches, libraries, and campuses to approach each other with curiosity, a willingness to listen, and a question to discuss. Over the year we worked with so many individuals and organizations who were tired of the divisive narrative and just wanted to talk. After the shooting in Uvalde, TX our Mental Health for Educators guide saw a 547% increase. I hope for a world where our response to tragedy, confusion, political turmoil, disinformation, and persisting social issues is to turn to each other in conversation. To create community.
I am so grateful to move this work forward alongside our Living Room Conversations community, partners, and supporters. I celebrate the moments of belonging we experienced this year and look forward to more of them in the coming year. I am personally committed to at least one Living Room Conversation each month, I hope you’ll join me!
Check out our small and mighty team below! We work together remotely, from all over the country, to bring people together!
Check out our small and mighty team below! We work remotely, from all over the country, to bring people together.
Hover over the names to read about what we are excited for in 2023!
As a veteran in the field, we have been encouraged by the momentum, increased funding, and numbers of organizations working to bridge divides. We know it will take a collective, strategic effort to reach our ultimate goal of a society where connecting and understanding each other despite differences is the norm.
Living Room Conversations occupies a unique role with our ever-growing library of 165 free, open source conversation guides. We are proud to offer an accessible entry point for individuals and groups wanting to have better conversations.
There’s a distinct need for the work we do. We saw our web traffic double with news like the overturning of Roe v. Wade, the war in Ukraine, and the midterm elections. Our conversation guides and additional resources supported tens of thousands of individuals and communities to come together across differences to better understand each other and the issues we face.
Everyone deserves better conversations in their lives and we worked to create more opportunities for people to join the conversation with our events. We held our first Talk to Connect events where anyone can come listen and join in on a conversation on a range of topics from Humor to Healthy Conflict. We started a book club. Authors like Justin Zorn and Leigh Marz talked about their book, Golden: The Power of Silence in a World of Noise, and answered questions from our guide “Silence and Noise: Finding Stillness”.
Our host community got an extra boost with our four-week online program, tripling our numbers over two sessions! They delved deeper into the practice of LRC and reached hundreds of participants in their conversations. As our programming expands it reaffirms the scalability of the model to grow quickly and exponentially!
We’re not alone in this work of bridging differences and are grateful for the coalitions we help to lead and support as well as our fantastic partners! In 2022, Living Room Conversations worked with the National Association for Community Mediation on a tool to help school boards connect with their communities, continued our strong partnership with AllSides, and collaborated with Common Ground Committee to amplify our efforts. Together with Brigham Young University, we received a grant from the Heterodox Academy to hold 27 student-led conversations in just two months on campus around Mental Health and Public Health, as well as Race and Faith Communities.
Living Room Conversations meets our individuals and communities where they are. In 2023, we are focusing on helping YOU have the conversations you wish you could be having. Whether you have 30 seconds or a full 90-minutes, we will have opportunities to listen, learn, and connect.
Our resources are easy to use, extensive, high-quality, and free. We believe everyone deserves to have better conversations in their lives! Here is what we’ve seen this year.
We want to acknowledge that the free, open source nature of our conversation guides means there’s a lot more going on than we know about. In 2023 we’ll be dedicating resources to increase visibility through: growing our strategic partnerships, investing more in our relationships with communities of practice, and revamping our website to increase ease of use as well as learn more about our users and their use of the resources we provide.
People spent over
minutes in Living Room Conversations in 2022.
(That is approximately 123,500 participants that we know about.)
This number is estimated from a number of different places. Our events attendees, Kazm conversations, our feedback form, our Communities of Practice that report in, and also our topics page survey. The topics page survey gives us information about approximate percentages of who is hosting and/or participating in a conversation versus just looking at our resources. We can then estimate using the pageviews/users that visit our topics pages overall.
It is amazing how often we hear from communities telling us that they have been using our resources weekly, monthly, etc. in their communities and we just found out now (pssst- if you are having conversations in your community – let us know!) This gives us confidence to say that we have far higher numbers of participants than we estimated – we just don’t have the means to add it to the numbers!
Our web engagement has increased by a third.
People are reviewing more pages and spending more time with our resources.
When we look at the traffic on the top 15 days of the year we see double the number of typical pageviews on our website. These views happen when major news events occur.
For example, November 8th were the midterm elections in 2022. The top fifteen traffic days include November 6th-9th. This reflects the want and need for our conversations and resources during election season.
Top 10 Guides of 2022
This year we assessed our communities of practice numbers (250+) These are communities that have shared with us their stories. We even got to meet with some of them! Read below about two North Carolina Communities and the participants in our hosting program.
The Mecklenburg Metropolitan Interfaith Network has over 60 House of Faith partners and has been convening groups for conversation using the LRC resources. They spoke of the need they see to increase understanding, empathy, and belonging.
North Carolina State University — focused on service, creative leadership, and being conscientious– has a monthly practice of Living Room Conversations. The students were thoughtful and supportive of each other.
I wondered how different my university experience, where I struggled with mental health, would have been with access to such conversations.Becca Kearl Tweet
Living Room Conversations Hosts
We like to acknowledge the LRC hosts that dig deeper and join our hosting programs to learn more about the ins and outs of the LRC model and hosting conversations.
In 2022, our thirty-three host program participants each hosted four conversations, 132 conversations overall, reaching hundreds of participants! This makes it easy to see how our model can scale quickly, and, more importantly, effectively.
Living Room Conversations wants to highlight our donors. Our work would not be possible without the generosity of individuals and foundations.
Along with the highlights in this report, donations have helped to support:
- An upcoming web redesign
- Our first ever in-person retreat
- Creation of new guides and resources
- Expansion of programming
- Events with authors, experts, and more
- Scaling of social media and other outreach
- Team development and organizational efficiency
- Nurturing and growing our strategic partnerships