Learning to Listen - Becoming an Outreach Organizer

I'm Alicia Neptune, a Communications Student at Capilano University and a Summer Jobs student here at the Metro Vancouver Alliance. As the summer draws to a close, I'm reflecting on my experience working as an Outreach Organizer.

Back in the spring, I took a qualitative research class in which our focus was housing affordability in Metro Vancouver. The lead organizer of the MVA, Deborah Littman, came to speak to the class about community organizing. I recall making the connection that qualitative research and community organizing shared a key component - listening. In that class, we spoke to fellow Capilano students about issues that impacted them, like transit and housing, and for the first time in a while, I felt a sense of community on campus.

As a part of the MVA team this summer, listening and community have been the focus of my work.

The goal: To organize "listening to youth" sessions to explore the key challenges youth face.

The challenge: Where to begin?

My first week was spent learning about the MVA, about the model of community organizing, and the practice of listening. From there, I had to track down a group of youth to talk to.

I started by using my resources - in this case, asking my parents, friends, and coworkers if they knew any groups who worked with youth. After I'd drawn up a list, I began reaching out by phone or email, and then met with leaders. Each person I spoke with then offered their own recommendations for other people I could reach out to.

Meetings were most productive when I came prepared and asked questions. The relationship I began was strengthened by following up to say thank you, or ask another question.

This was the hard part. Weeks and then months of telling people what I was trying to do. But gradually I got the word out. And eventually I found a group.

The next entry will describe the listening session I hosted. Stay tuned!

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