Listening for a Change
Multiple Innovative Programs for Schools that Include:
All programs support Restorative Practices
Reasons for Participating
When youth engage in listening attentively to stories of others, they become capable of understanding, reflecting, and accepting. Tolerance isn’t enough—We all want to be seen, heard, and accepted.
Through respectful inquiry and reflection, youth come know themselves and what it takes to be a caring, thoughtful, and resilient person in the complex world we all inhabit. By inquiry and oral history methodology critical thinking and authentic caring is enhanced and wisdom acquired from ordinary people. These programs are designed to offer opportunities to explore what it means to be human and the importance of justice and human rights. Civic engagement is fostered in a needy world.
Listening for a Change trains students in oral history and active listening skills.
After in-depth sessions for a minimum of six hours, panels of three to six students interview community members from a wide range of backgrounds. The interviewees are invited by the students, usually with a focused theme of interest (war veterans, members of LGBTQI community, former gang members, cancer survivors, successful life stories, etc.). Listening for a Change records each hour-long interview with professional video cameras. Our staff video editor collaborates with students to distill significant insights into 5-8 minute videos. All edited videos are translated into Spanish or English; translations are posted as they are completed on the screen next to the image of the interviewee. These videos are also shared through public access television, school assemblies, other websites, and touch-screen Mobile Interactive Kiosks.
View student video interviews of multiple community members across Sonoma County http://listeningforachange.org/video-stories/
Through the process of story, questioning, and reflection, students dispel the notions of otherness and lay a foundation for eliminating bullying and violence. Hearing the experiences, advice, and wisdom of interviewees, students gain new insight and options for transformative change and empowerment. The Neighborhood Listening Project thus effectively integrates equity and social justice studies into existing school curricula.
Listening for a Change has created an innovative program, Crosstown Conversations which fosters deep connections between and among partnered students from different schools (but similar ages) and promotes understanding and acceptance to dispel “otherness.”
This exchange includes letter writing in both traditional and electronic correspondence; a half day visitation at each school with a site tour; engaging activities including personal interviews; discussion of “Wordle” depictions of each site’s beliefs about how others perceived their school and how they themselves believed their school to be; a guest speaker with life story about resilience in overcoming adversity; self-posed photo portraits; time for getting to know one another and much more.
Listening for a Change is now offering this program. Go to http://listeningforachange.org/crosstown-conversations/ to learn more about Crosstown Conversations.
The Body Mapping program creates opportunities for students to tell their own stories through creative art.
A Body Map is a large-scale drawing and/or collage that reflects and illustrates one’s own story. Body Mapping empowers participants to learn about their family history and explain their own story in pictures, words, or mementoes. Body Mappers share their strengths as well as dreams for their future. Listening for a Change offers an artist-initiated workshop process where the artist acts a facilitator for the participants to create their own Body Map.
Working in a safe, nurturing environment of understanding, empathy and mutual support with students, faculty, and artists allows students to reflect and share with one another. Each student has opportunities to explain and share their completed Body Map with other students and invited family members.
To Learn more about Body Mapping for youth please visit
To view Art and Storytelling—The Body Map Series that Listening for a Change participated in with the Museum of Sonoma County visit http://listeningforachange.org/art-storytelling-bodymap-series/
Since 1999 Essence of Acceptance has been implemented in secondary classes throughout Sonoma County and San Mateo. Classrooms included a wide range from the Court, Community and Alternative Schools, to Casa Grande High, Petaluma High School, to Sequoia High School (Redwood City) and others. Summer workshops for teachers have been offered at Sonoma State University.
The curriculum proved to be one that can be integrated into both social studies and language arts curriculum at several grade levels. Students come to understand what Human Rights are and why they are important. The focus is on interviewing community members who have suffered a loss of Human Rights. It offers a systemic methodology to help students develop empathy for people different from themselves and begin to understand the real and present consequences of human right violations.
Most importantly the program helps young people understand the impact of Human Rghts violations through direct interaction with those who have personally experienced them. By extension, they are able to draw connections between these experiences and seemingly unrelated examples of intolerance in their own daily lives (e.g. students labeling one another “gay” as an insult)—leading them to be more vigilant and engaged about their own attitudes and those of their peers.
All Listening for a Change programs help build Restorative Practices in the School and Community.
The Listening for a Change Approach can:
- Develop a school environment where students and staff feel respected, heard, and connected with others.
- Develop social-emotional intelligence and build social and human capital.
- Increase the school community’s ability to communicate and address changes.
- Build a campus community that embraces both shared values and differences – a place for healing and inclusion.
Storytelling is a Core Tenet of Restorative Practices:
Storytelling offers a unique and familiar way for students to engage with one another and lay the foundation for developing healthy relationships. Listening for a Change is built on the conviction that we Create Connections, One Story at a Time and it is imperative we find meaningful ways to understand the rich and complex cultures among us.