What does it mean to be a community? How can we improve?

These are questions posed by two conflict resolution specialists from Scarborough on a mission to improve communication in their community.

Janice Cohen and Dana Morris-Jones, both Scarborough residents, will host an event titled “One Scarborough Community Conversation” at Camp Ketcha on Dec. 17 from 6 to 9 p.m. During the event, members of the community are invited to share ideas and make connections within the community.

Morris-Jones and Cohen have a long history of professionally facilitating disputes. Over the past year, Cohen and Morris-Jones have noticed an increased national tone of divisiveness, a trend that the two have seen bleeding into the Scarborough community as well.

“What is happening in our community is not unique. The question is, how do we go about resolving the issues in a way that’s good for the relationships in the community? We think it’s possible for people to come together to share their feelings constructively, in a way that doesn’t create bad feelings among neighbors,” said Morris-Jones, who has been a Scarborough resident for 16 years and authored “The Power of Difference: From Conflict to Collaboration.”

“This event is an opportunity to listen to each other in a safe environment,” Morris-Jones said.

During the Dec. 17 event, residents are encouraged to voice their opinions and thoughts on the Scarborough community in a constructive way, while listening to differing opinions and respecting those with opposing views.

Over the course of the fall, Cohen and Morris-Jones have interviewed a diverse group of 20 individuals and couples to better understand the dynamic within the Scarborough community.

“We have found the people of Scarborough to be very engaged in the community, passionate, and well informed. They just have different experiences that have lead them to different conclusions,” Cohen said. “We want people to listen to how people arrived at their way of thinking without thinking of them as the enemy.”

For the event, 10 other discussion facilitators have volunteered their time to ensure that the conversation runs smoothly. None of the 10 facilitators are from Scarborough. It was important to Cohen and Morris-Jones that the event is neutral, uninfluenced by any outside interests, so they have turned down any sponsorships from local organizations.

During preliminary interviews, the team found that residents have differences in opinions over the school system, budgets and spending, and development, but are united in the hope for a more stable, vibrant community.

“The success of this event relies on the diversity of those who attend, so we hope that it will be more than just those who already go to every meeting,” said Morris-Jones. “Maybe people are out there who think that they are part of the silent majority that feels a certain was about an issue. We want to hear those voices.”

According to Morris-Jones and Cohen, Camp Ketcha can accommodate a large number of participants, and they are hoping that Scarborough residents will come out en masse for the event.

“Scarborough residents have the opportunity to set an example of how to build a stronger community,” Cohen said. “We may not be able to influence what’s going on nationally, but we can do something about it locally.”

 

Contact Staff Writer Abigail Worthing at [email protected]

 

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