[Editor Note: This week’s feature story comes from Kurtis Kelly of the Estes Valley Public Library]
Remember those classic TV commercials from the 1970s for Reese’s Peanut Butter cups? Someone is walking down the street eating chocolate. Someone else is walking down the street eating peanut butter. They collide. “Your chocolate’s in my peanut butter!” “Your peanut butter’s in my chocolate!” It ends quite happily, with the realization: Two great tastes that taste great together.
So it was when our two like-minded organizations came together in partnership. Serving our Colorado mountain village, the Estes Valley Library and Estes Valley Restorative Justice Partnership (EVRJP) have been actively collaborating since 2018. Each of us benefits from the other’s unique strengths: EVRJP is professionally skilled in facilitation and mediation, and the Library is a trusted nonpartisan convener of community programs.
Recently, we launched a Community Conversations initiative using Living Room Conversations. Our goal is to improve public communications, promote active community problem-solving, and to elevate the quality of local conversations.
We started with a timely and challenging topic: Police-Community Relations and convened 30 participants, including community members and local police.
Chief Wes Kufeld of the Estes Park Police Department commented, “It’s a great way to build relationships and partner with the community.” Another participant added, “Learning from one another is how we move forward in a positive, more compassionate world.”
The next Living Room Conversation series we held was The Power of Empathy, which launched October’s Conflict Resolution Month, an initiative designed to inspire constructive problem solving. The theme, ‘Talk It Out,’ focused on opportunities to engage in productive conversation and dialogue.
“It was helpful to be able to hear from others about their perspective on empathy,” one participant observed. “Oftentimes I just assume that everyone would have the same understanding, it is helpful to know that we all have different experiences.”
While additional Living Room Conversations were planned for their Conflict Resolution Month series, the offerings were preempted when wildfires forced a town-wide evacuation. Fortunately, we emerged safely and everyone was able to return home after a snowstorm helped quell the fire activity.
“We look forward to picking back up and offering more opportunities for Living Room Conversations in the future,” says Denise Lord, EVRJP Director. “It is clear that the Living Room Conversations model and their partner platform, AllSides Connect, are useful tools that will help us in our efforts to improve communication and elevate conversations in the Estes Valley.”
This collaboration between our two organizations earned the 2019 Colorado Library Community Partnership Award, and it shows what can happen when “two great tastes” combine their unique strengths.
Both of our organizations are grateful to have the Living Room Conversation model to guide and inspire future goals in bringing their residents together to learn from one another, delve into creative problem-solving, and find common ground through meaningful dialogue.
Estes Valley Library