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Over the summer, BenitoLink hosted a series of community listening sessions with many sectors of the San Benito County community. To date, BenitoLink has gathered 18 small, intimate groups for Community Vision San Benito County Listening Sessions. These sessions are designed so BenitoLink team members can engage with individual community members about the issues, challenges and dreams they have for their county in 2023. A substantial amount of the funding for this project was provided by the Calhoun Family Fund and the Community Foundation for San Benito County.
This week, the Listening Post Collective, part of Internews, has granted BenitoLink $500 in additional funding for the project.
The listening sessions have allowed the BenitoLink team to take part in the community in a unique way. The team has had a chance to hear directly from farmers, teachers, artists, commuters and youth about what is on their minds and where they see the need for change. We have been able to stop everything for a couple hours, give our guests our undivided attention and just absorb what they have to say. It has been a great experience for all of us. We hope the sessions will build trust and open up the opportunity for new relationships.
These are the listening session goals:
- Listen and engage with our community
- Gain a deeper understanding of the information needs of residents who don’t feel represented in the news
- Initiate community conversations using a wide variety of strategies including meals, live events, text messages, social media and video production
- Build trust with community members by committing time and hearing their perspectives
BenitoLink has also used the listening sessions as an opportunity to learn more about where our residents get their news and information.
The Listening Post Collective, which was founded in 2013, states its mission on the website: “We partner with people and organizations to develop local news and information solutions that help communities thrive.”
In 2017, Listening Post outlined a seven-step community engagement process for communities and news organizations. Ways to reach community members vary from one neighborhood or region to another. The Listening Post website explains how it helps communities build relationships with local residents. “We develop toolkits, playbooks and strategies that are adaptable and meet the partners where they are.”