When I was a kid, I heard time and again that I wasn’t a good listener.
“J.R. would have so much talent, if only he’d listen,” teachers would write. “You never listen,” my mom would say.
I can’t recall when I started listening, but I reckon you have to be a bad listener, and that it has to be pointed out, before you can see the error of your ways. I guess as we grow older, and into professionals, it’s a learned talent that continues to improve over time. Even mid-career, I continue to hone my listening skills. But one moment I can recall as pivotal to my listening journey is that my skills greatly improved once I became involved in the community and service engagement movement within higher education. To truly embrace reciprocity, one must be a good listener.
Today, when asked what is at the core of the work we do in this movement, I’d argue partnerships. Without this core component to our work none of us would be successful in moving community and campus engagement forward. What’s most critical in a partnership? I’d argue listening. Much like any partnership we enter—such as marriage, friendship, or business—communication and listening are central themes to continued success.
Did you know Indiana Campus Compact can help you hone your listening skills with your community partners? One of our best kept secrets is that we provide dollars to help move these partnership discussions along.
Through the Listening to Communities grant program, your campus can apply to host a listening meeting to discuss ways in which the community and the campus could work better together while listening to your partners on what’s going well and what could improve. Often times these are general service engagement partnership discussions, but the Listening to Communities meetings could be thematic. In the past, some communities and campuses have discussed affordable housing, while others have focused on economic development. Each partnership you have with your community through service engagement is unique, so it’s deciding which ones need the immediate listening attention.
I invite you to work with me and use this spring as a chance to hone the most critical aspect of your community and campus partnerships—listening. Applications are accepted on a rolling basis throughout the end of March, so go ahead and apply today.