Conversations for Change
Using the existing platform of the "I Love This Place" Project, Conversations for Change is a collective of high school students from Catlin Gabel School, De La Salle North Catholic, and Wilson High School who hope to find a home for the rich dialogue we curated with students from across the country. We are looking to compile the perspectives, stories, and experiences of young people as they engage in tough conversations around the social and political issues that impact them most.
As youth we’ve identified a lack of opportunity for dialogue and a culture of ‘closed mindedness’ in our communities, especially when discussing social and political issues. Therefore, we’ve created a platform for youth to navigate conversations with their peers on social and political matters by listening to a variety of perspectives. Through conversation, we hope participants will be able to:
Embrace each other's differences, find common ground, and build new relationships.
Listen to understand, instead of to judge or dismiss.
Build skills to facilitate their own conversations with their friends and family in the hopes of changing the national conversation.
Initial Inspiration and Data-Gathering
Catlin Gabel students Bailey Sneed and Luke Van Buskirk created Conversations for Change in response to the overwhelming sense of division and polarization that followed the 2016 Presidential Election. We became interested in investigating why our peers seemed unable or unwilling to engage with people whose perspectives that conflict with their own.
To hear from different groups of people, we started a Flipgrid conversation that reached hundreds of young people from rural small towns in Oregon to larger metropolises in New York and North Carolina. These videos became the focus of an OPB: Think Out Loud show that featured students from Portland-area high schools in conversation with students from Oregon City High School.
After watching and analyzing the hundreds of Flipgrid videos, we created a video montage to demonstrate how young people across the country identify with these three broad, yet rich thematic topics. The three most common themes we noticed were:
Freedom. Diversity. Opportunity.
After gathering as a group and reflecting on both the Flipgrid and OPB experiences, we recognized that every individual should have the chance to hear opinions that differ from ours. It is too easy to ignore others’ opinions and fall into a trap of only ever being surrounded by like-minded people who just reflect your opinion back to you.
In order to break this cycle, we were very excited to participate in the OPB’s Think Out Loud segment which allowed us to interact with students other than the ones in our everyday communities. While we deeply appreciated the chance to meet with Oregon City High School students and hear our conversation on the air, the OPB conversation helped us realize that adult-led conversations with young people are often well-meaning but sometimes lack opportunities for youth to engage authentically with each other.
The most important thing we took from this experience and the “What Makes America Great for You?” project is that young people must realize the importance of having conversations with young people who are different from them. We wanted to apply what we learned, so we produced a conversation guide that could spark youth to have these difficult discussions with each other, too.
We aim to start conversations between different types of people. We hope that this document will help students or teachers facilitate difficult conversations between wide ranges of people who have very different ideas.
In gaining access to the facilitation guide, we ask that you provide us with a bit of information about who you are and your purpose in wanting to use the guide. This aspect is completely optional.