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West Michigan Residents Learn To “Talk Nice” Despite Differences | Arts & Culture

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West Michigan Residents Learn To “Talk Nice” Despite Differences
West Michigan Residents Learn To “Talk Nice” Despite Differences

GRAND HAVEN, Mich. --The West Michigan Civil Conversation Project was created in response to the growing lack of civility in our public and political discourse. It is intended to provide a place and process by which people can learn and practice the ability to discuss important issues in small-group settings with those who have differing viewpoints—and to do so with mutual respect and civility.

About 65 people turned out to for the inaugural conversation in February where participants gathered in tables small groups of people from diverse backgrounds to discuss the concept of “The Common Good.” In a three-round conversation process, participants shared their views, responded to others’ views, and then participated in unstructured conversation around the topic—with the goal of promoting listening, learning, and inquiry versus advocacy.

In a lively feedback discussion at the end of the inaugural session it was clear that participants agreed the evening was a success. “I really appreciated the dialogue and the process. Everyone had an opportunity to speak and people could speak without interruption,” said Deborah Ellis progressive-minded voter from Port Sheldon township who participated in the conversation at a table that included a member of the local Tea Party. “It was great. The process worked!”

Several participants expressed hope for even greater diversity, particularly in age and political leanings, and organizers shared their continuing efforts to draw in a wide range of people at both ends of the political spectrum.

“We worked hard to bring in people and organizations with a wide range of views, and we hope to draw even more diversity in our next gathering as word of the project spreads,” shared organizer Richard Kamischke. Feedback gathered from the first conversation will guide future gatherings.

The project is the brainchild of local residents Richard Kamischke and Cathy Feyt, and is supported by the Loutit District Library (LDL), the League of Women Voters, and the Progressive Women’s Alliance-Lakeshore.

The WMCCP is open to the public and meets throughout the year on the third Tuesday of the month (with a summer recess in July and August) to discuss a wide range of topics selected for their potential to inspire diverse perspectives and their relevance to current events.

The next conversation is set for March 20 at 7:00 p.m. in LDL’s Program Rooms A and B.

For more information about the project, email at wmcivilconversation@gmail.com or on Facebook by searching for the West Michigan Civil Conversation Project.

Loutit District Library is located at 407 Columbus Avenue in Grand Haven, Michigan. The library serves 35,540 residents from the City of Grand Haven, the City of Ferrysburg, Grand Haven Charter Township, Robinson Township and that part of Port Sheldon Township in the Grand Haven Area Public Schools District. For more information, call 616-842-5560, ext. 222 or visit www.loutitlibrary.org.