New Hampshire Listens is a community engagement initiative of the Carsey School of Public Policy at the University of New Hampshire. In the same way that we need the physical infrastructure of roads, bridges, and buildings, we need to build, strengthen, and sustain infrastructure in our communities to support and sustain democracy. Our mission is to help New Hampshire residents talk and work together to create communities that work for everyone. We design for virtual and in-person gatherings.
In the past few years, we have partnered with Leadership NH, the United Way of Greater Nashua, the NH Endowment for Health, New Futures, and three Governor’s Study Commissions. At the local level, we partner with nonprofit organizations; government officials; leaders from the education, civic, corporate sectors; and philanthropic organizations.
What is the difference between NH Listens and other Listens groups, such as Nashua Listens and Dover Listens?
NH Listens is the civic engagement arm of the Carsey School. In addition to its own projects, it supports and connects Local Listens groups. Local Listens groups are independently founded and controlled, typically with a steering committee comprised of public, private, and civic sector leaders who self-organize with our assistance. These formally or informally organized local or regional groups carry out similar projects and agree to operate within the principles for fair and productive engagement, as outlined here. NH Listens supports and connects Local Listens organizations to increase civic capacity statewide to solve problems and increase opportunities for everyday citizens who want to express their individual and shared views on governance and community-related issues.
Attend an event, join us for Facilitating for Public Engagement Training, or just contact us. We would love to talk with you.
What processes does NH Listens use to conduct community conversations? Is the work similar to processes used elsewhere to conduct community conversations?
Our work is grounded in small, facilitated groups. Our facilitators are trained in a “pure facilitator” model where they are required to be neutral on the topic and focused solely on making sure the group is fair and that everyone gets to participate. There is often a large group “report out” at the end of the process where participants share direct summaries from their small groups. Using small groups makes it possible for more people to participate, and they are often less intimidating for those who are hesitant to speak in large groups.
We recognize that some people may be guarded about and suspicious of public meetings; we often work with individuals who reserve judgment in case they are treated unfairly or find a predetermined agenda at play. Over the years, people doing public engagement work have sometimes been accused of imposing their own biases to lead participants into believing a certain way on an issue. We understand that some will join our conversations tentatively while they learn about NH Listens for themselves. In keeping with our independent spirit, we welcome everyone and hope you find NH Listens is a refreshing antidote to what sometimes in civic affairs becomes more focused on the fight than on the solution.
How can I learn more about the range of topics, projects, and initiatives that NH Listens has been involved with on the local, state, and regional levels?
For more information on how to start a Local Listens Group please contact NH Listens director, Michele Holt-Shannon at 603.862-0692