By Amanda Cady, Layne Coleman, David Lewis, Oluwaseun Olaniyi, Essence Thomas, and Rebecca Glazier
Throughout February, a team of students from the Clinton School of Public Service worked with researchers from the Little Rock Congregations Study at UA Little Rock to host three community dialogues. The topics of these dialogues were selected based on data from 2,293 congregants from 35 different places of worship, who responded to the 2020 LRCS Survey. Their responses indicated that a particular interest in the issues of education, healthcare, and marriage and family. We had over 30 participants at the dialogues from congregations and nonprofit organizations across the city, some of whom attended multiple sessions.
In each session, participants from a wide variety of backgrounds discussed their own experiences with each of these issues and the ways in which they hoped to collaborate for positive change in the community. Through each session, participants identified some barriers to collaboration, including time and money, religious and political differences, historic racial inequities, and resistance to change. Finally, participants discussed some ways to overcome these barriers, including open communication, targeted efforts within congregations to raise awareness, and most importantly, building connections within the community. In small-group discussions, participants were able to meet community members with shared interest areas and discuss new and current initiatives in areas of education, healthcare, and marriage and family.
Data from our post-surveys showed that overwhelmingly, the dialogue series helped participants become more willing to work through barriers to collaboration, and all participants reported that they would participate in a similar dialogue event again!
A summary report of the 2021 dialogue series is linked here and is available on the LRCS webpage, along with other findings from the long-term research project. The report includes additional details on the dialogue series, as well as some takeaways, and contact information for organizations that are already working on these issues in our community. One of the most exciting takeaways was participants’ willingness to begin collaborations. Reaching out to organizations or congregations with shared interests to begin steps towards collaboration on key interest areas is a great way to begin making progress on these important issues.
Thanks to all the faith leaders and community members who helped make the 2021 dialogue series possible! The Little Rock Congregations Study values your participation, and we hope that you find the dialogue summary helpful. If you have any questions, please contact the LRCS Project Director, Dr. Rebecca A. Glazier at email@example.com.