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As we noted last week, Urban Rural Action doesn’t utilize a classic negotiating framework. This is because reaching agreement isn’t their end goal. They consider working together and building understanding to be a more valuable objective on social issues.
Sometimes negotiation trainers ask participants to roleplay as their counterparts. However, Joe doesn’t do this. Instead, he encourages participants to be themselves, demonstrating both honesty and personal perspectives.
Civility is encouraged, too—but no one is asked to misrepresent their perspective. This is intended to avoid creating concerns that someone’s own point of view won’t be voiced.
A moderator is often used in small groups in hopes of assuring that everyone gets heard. UR Action also tries to equip everyone with the skills to better articulate their perspective afterward; when they return to their community.
As Bubman says, the goals of the program align with the goals of UR Action overall. This includes establishing new relationships.
Through ongoing collaboration and ample truffle tasting (you will have to listen to the episode to understand this reference!), people from widely differing backgrounds are brought together. As a result, UR Action’s initiatives are eventually achieved.
Outcomes are sought within their overall parameters of success. These are used to measure how participant-turned-change agents fare as action leaders and ambassadors.
Certainly every American from every background knows that we are far more polarized than we should be today. UR Action’s activities and initiatives as a means of addressing this.
Their 2022 agenda shares similar goals. This includes the academic program, which is tasked with building understanding in pursuit of societal solutions.
After being involved, 79% of college participants said they found the program valuable. In 2022, UR Action will host similar programs on a national basis.
UR Action has these events planned in at least 9 different states. Meanwhile, Bubman recommends that those who’re eager to participate start individually.
In other words, he suggests spending less time online with people who think and speak the same as you. The idea is to interact with persons from different perspectives and backgrounds.
It’s difficult to truly communicate with people by seeking solely to be understood first. Like it or not, we all should try to understand others, whether we agree with them or not, before seeking to be heard.
When approached sincerely and with an open mind, this method can broaden our horizons. Bubman makes no secret of UR Action’s intent to effect and affect change, and shows that listening, first, is a big part of it.
Anyone who’s read political discussions online knows how ugly both sides can get. That’s why he describes the national political climate as toxic and recommends engagement within your community.
This is probably the most realistic endeavor. We may never be understood 100%—any more than we may get politicians on any side to adhere 100% to their constituents’ wishes. However, we might improve things within our communities, at least.
Your time’s important to us. Thanks for listening!
Nolan Martin : Welcome to the NEGOTIATEx podcast. We're gonna continue our discussion this week with Joe Bubman. If you didn't already hear Part A of this episode, make sure you listen to last week's episode, that's gonna be NX 29 Part A before you listen to today's episode. Thanks. We'll see you in the episode.
Aram Donigian : I did wanna go back to, you know, this, this idea of taking others' perspectives, breaking things down; is one of the issues there a fear, and I'm just curious how you address it, a fear that I'm gonna lose my own voice, my ability to advocate for something that strikes at my beliefs, even my identity, things I'm just so sure of. And how do you coach individuals through that, particularly on the issues you're talking about that are, that are like so deeply connected and wired to who we are?
Joe Bubman : Aram, thanks so much for asking that question because the first thing that comes to mind for me is that this is the NEGOTIATEx podcast, and we have never fully introduced the negotiation framework, the circle of value, the seven elements of negotiation that you and I have come to know so well over many years, because what we're not trying to do in our programs is to reach agreement, right? Our definition of negotiation that you and I often talk about is that back-and-forth communication, moving towards some form of agreement, right? Where, where interests, some interests are shared, some are different, some conflict. In the political discussion in our country, the challenge is not that we don't agree enough. The challenge is that we don't listen to each other enough and that we don't understand each other enough. And so the framework that is most resonant and most relevant is the framework of the ABCs, this constructive communication dialogue framework, where the goal is not agreement, but understanding.
And you're right Aram that I, I think people do hold this fear that, wait a second, if I am so effectively checking my understanding of their point of view and demonstrating my understanding, are they going to mistakenly conclude that I agree with them and am I going to lose a of my identity and the values that I hold dear? And that question does come up. It came up recently because we emphasize so much the importance of using a and C, asking questions to understand their point of view and checking our understanding of their perspective. And what I often say in response is if you are deeply concerned that the other person is going to mistakenly conclude that you agree with them just because you are checking your understanding, then I would preface your response with “Aram I think we have different views on this situation before I share mine. I really wanna better understand yours. So tell me more about how you see this.”
AD : Yeah, that's nice. It sounds like it's, it's not just skills as much as it's also creating, the ability to create an environment where those conversations now can occur.
JB : Yeah, I think that's right. And most of our discussions are taking place in very small groups, right? Sometimes three people, sometimes five often moderated, uh, where the moderator or facilitator can ensure that everyone's voice is heard. Um, so that everyone has an opportunity to practice these skills, but also to break down their view and, and the, the breaking down your view is important. And so we, we want people to <affirmative> and this is one of the core differences. If you're thinking about workshops that we've run, the difference is we're not asking people to play a role, right? We are bringing people together who have different lived experiences, different perspectives. And we're asking them to honestly, sincerely and concisely share their perspective of break down their point of view so others can understand. And so people have an opportunity, uh, in, in our work, uh, to make sure that they're expressing their values. And as I say, we also are equipping them with the skills to do that when they, when they leave our pro. And when they go back home, go back into their community so that they can both explore different perspectives, as well as help others understand their reasoning and their perspective as well.
NM : Yeah, Joe, so kind of to follow up there: is that the end result of a cohort is just to be able to take these experiences and understanding from the collective group and share that with, with other people that they know and have shared experiences with?
JB : I would say that the goals of our program align with the goals of our organization. And one of the things that we're trying to achieve is the establishment of new relationships. So we hope that, like you said, Aram, it's hard for people to identify others who are really different from them, maybe different worldviews, different lived experiences to invite program. We hope that that wouldn't be the case at the end of the program. Like you have, even if it's a Facebook friend, and now that impacts what shows up in your newsfeed. We, we sincerely hope through these, the chocolate truffle tasting, but also the collaboration over many months, we hope. And we have data to back this up that people will have new relationships with, with people who live out in the country or live in the big city or people who are much older or people who are much younger or people who are, have a different skin color or people who have a different worldview.
So relationships is, is one thing, Nolan that we hope people take away from the program. A second thing, we, we hope that they take away is the skills that we've been describing. And I, I won't articulate those because we we've talked about them quite a bit. The third is the implementation of the specific projects, right? When I talk about programs of talking about like these nine months initiatives led by Urban Rural Action. And then these projects maybe are six months are embedded in the programs. These are the initiatives that the community members, these teams of five, six community members are carrying out with their organizational partner. And this might be a project to support immigrant business owners in the Eastern shore of Maryland. This might be a project to support LGBTQ inclusion in the workplace across Maryland. This might be a project to enhance homeless workforce development in Maryland.
This might be a project to better address mental health concerns in the workplace. There are many outcomes related to each of those individual projects within the larger program. So we do hope that whatever those community member projects measures of success are that they are achieving those as well. And that might be greater awareness of the public about the challenges facing immigrant business owners, or it might be, certain community gatherings that are, that are held where immigrant business owners have an opportunity to describe the resources that are helpful to them, and that are missing for example. So those are the types of outcomes we try to achieve in our programs. And I'd say bigger picture Nolan. As we think, as we come up on the anniversary of, of January 6th, we do hope that in our programs, we are changing the, the dynamic that exists in our country, where people who are conservative don't want their kids to marry liberals and liberals don't want their kids to marry conservatives where people who live in big cities believe that people who live in rural areas don't share their values and people in rural areas believe that people who live in cities don't share their values, where a large minority of the population believes that violence might be necessary to save the country, um, where a large minority believes that people who belong to the other party are the biggest threat to our Democratic Republic.
We are beginning to measure those types of sentiments, and we expect to see changes over the life of our program, through the relationship building, through the dialogue, through the skills that are built and through the collaboration with people who are different from them.
NM : Wow, Joe, that's incredibly powerful. What are some of the key highlights that you've it so far? And then what's 2022 look like for U R Action?
JB : Yeah. Thanks Nolan. So I talked about our flagship statewide program. We also run academic programs and in our academic programs, we bring together students from different types of institutions in different types of communities to build relationships, strengthen collaboration skills, and work together. And I'll just share a highlight from 2021, we completed the third iteration of our Georgetown University and Wilson College Food Justice collaboration. These are two institutions that are in very different communities, right? Georgetown in Washington, DC, where the population is roughly 50% African American, where median property values are upwards of $700,000, uh, where the population density is very high, where president Trump won about four, 5% of the vote, in 2016 and 2020 Wilson colleges, two hours north in Franklin county, Pennsylvania sparsely populated area media property value is I think something like $150,000. Um, president Trump won around 66, 70% of the vote in both 2016 and 2020.
And in this program where students were exploring food insecurity in urban and rural areas, and then working together to address hunger in their respective communities. We found that 79% of students said that the program was valuable for bridging divides in America. We asked students prior to the course, if they had a solid understanding of food justice issues across urban and rural areas, 20% said that at the start a hundred percent said that at the end, prior to the course, 36% of students said that they could analyze societal problem systematically that jumped to 95% after the course. 28% said that they could design community interventions systematically prior to the course that jumped to nine, 89% after the course. So those are some significant impact data that we saw in 2021. In some of our other programs, like our Uniting for Action America program and our work in New Hampshire, that Aram you contributed to, I don't have the data off the top of my head, but you know, one of the important insights that people took away based on some of this pre-imposed data was when you think about people who have views on issues that you feel strongly about that are different from your own, are you able to understand those views?
And it was either a lot or somewhat or not at all. And I think we also asked a question about respect. Are you able to still respect those people a lot, somewhat not at all. And we felt quite a big improvement where at the beginning of those programs, something like 20% of our participants said they weren't able to understand or respect people who had re really different views from them on issues that they felt strongly about. And at the end of the program virtually no one felt like they couldn't understand at least somewhat or maintain some level of respect for people that they disagreed with. In terms of 2022, we've got the anniversary of January 6th, 2021 coming up, and we are participating in a National Day of Dialogue. And on January 5th, we are doing a one off event. We don't often do this, but this is a one-off event open to the public to explore different perspectives on causes and effects of political violence.
And then on January 6th, one hour session on possible solutions to political violence in our country because we have a political violence problem, and we should talk about it. And the last thing I'll say is that we're implementing a new program starting in March, that I'm really excited about. It's a national program called Uniting for Democracy. We're teaming up with Lead for America, and this will be a 15-month program. Like all of our other initiatives, it's nonpartisan, and we're gonna be doing the same type of work that we do in our other programs, bringing people together, cross divides, building relationships, engaging in dialogue, on democracy related challenges, and then working together to address local democracy issues, whether misinformation low civic engagement, inadequate skill for engaging with different perspectives, local news deserts, and, and so on. And that program, uh, will, will be implementing in states like Wyoming, Hawaii, Kentucky, Illinois, Kansas, Minnesota, and so on.
AD : How many states are you touching right now and what, what's the projection for 2022?
JB : So we are running our statewide program in two programs right now, sorry, in two states right now, Maryland and Oregon, but this program, the national program will, will touch, at least nine states, nine different states. And ultimately we do hope to have active programming, like really robust programming in 50 states. We do have sort of supporters and, and community members who participate loosely, probably all 50 states. But in terms of these like robust nine month programs, a handful of states, but hopefully 50 in the near future.
AD : So Joe, how, how can folks get specifically involved with U R Action? What can they, what can they do? And, and more broadly, all the great things you've talked about, how, how can, how can we take the skills concepts and, and apply them as agents of change in our communities?
JB : I'll start with the last piece, which is that in order to affect societal change, we need to start at an individual level. And for me, that means spending less time online with people who are similar to us and more time in person with people who are different from us. It also means trying to give people the benefit of the doubt and trying to understand before focusing on being understood, and we can affect change by having better conversations as a starting point. And just the last thing I'll say is, you know, we often get what, what I hear a lot about is a sense of hopelessness, right? We we're frustrated by national politics because it's toxic. It is filled with accusations and ad-hominem attacks and threats of violence and misinformation. And we often can find common ground at a local level. And so get involved in your community, engage with people who are different from you.
Try to tackle something even in a small way where you can see some measurable impact. And if we all did that in all of our communities across the country, we could see some significant change. If any of this inspires you or you want to affect change, in part by engaging with Urban Rural Action, we'd love for you to sign up for our newsletter on our website. Our website is uraction.org. That's the letter U, the letter R action.org, go to our website. You'll see an opportunity to sign up for our monthly newsletter. It's written by, uh, a very funny colleague of Ethan's in mind, uh, sorry, Ethan Underhill. And, uh, that newsletter provides lots of opportunities to get involved. You can also email me, email@example.com, would love to talk with you about your interest in our work share opportunities for you to get involved depending on where you live, that will dictate what opportunities might exist, whether it's a statewide program, a national program, one of, one of our one off events. So get in touch with me, Joe@uraction.org or sign up on our website, uraction.org, would love to have you.
NM : Well, Joe, Aram and our listeners, this is a podcast that is all about taking action, becoming a better negotiator and in Joe's circumstances with your action that's could be as powerful as, you know, making societal changes. So with that, Joe I'll turn it over to you first. Are there any takeaways or anything else that you wanna bring up before we wrap it up here?
JB : Yeah. Thanks Nolan. I just wanna share one final thought, which is that there are lots of quote, unquote bridge building organizations out there in the United States today, because the issue you raised earlier a of toxic polarization is so pervasive and so dangerous. And what might trouble you about these organizations is when they present dialogue as the solution, when they present civility as the solution, when the only problem that is teed up is incivility or an inability to talk civilly about the problems facing our country. And I would agree with you if your assessment is that that is not sufficient. And what you'll find in our programs is that we don't believe a lack of civility is the problem. We believe that there are structural challenge is in our society that we need to address. Dialogue is a starting point, but it must be followed by meaningful action. Action across divides to tackle challenges around economic hardship, around isolation and loneliness, around food insecurity, around injustice in our system. And so if you are motivated by that desire to take action, join us because we believe that we need to transcend our differences and transcend conflict in our country by not only talking about them, but working together to affect meaningful change. And we provide opportunities in our programs to do that.
NM : Yeah, I think a key takeaway from kind of listening to this episode and everything is, is really when he had said understand before being understood. And I think that that gets on the whole level of just being a good listener to really understand what you are hearing before trying to, you know, reason or explain how you feel in a certain situation. I think that's pretty powerful from today's episode, Aram, uh, what takeaways did you have?
AD : Well at first, I'm gonna say, thanks, Joe, for taking the time to be with us and thank you for the great work you're doing. I know you know, how much, which I just appreciate and respect you and your time today is, uh, is, is, is invaluable. I, I hope our listeners will go back and, and re-listen maybe to this podcast, this is one that I could digest a second time in terms of the work Joe's doing for myself. Um, you know, without rehitting everything Joe hit, I need to practice more intellectual humility. I need to, I love Joe, what you said, spend less time online with people who think the same way as I do spend more time in person with people who, who are different and, and you use that to build real relationships in humanize people. And then I'll just the, my, I really appreciate the work you're doing around systematic analysis and the achievements there and helping students across the country and participants across the country, uh, engage more effectively, uh, in addressing these these issues. So thanks so much for that. And back to you, Nolan.
NM : Yeah. Well, ladies and gentlemen, appreciate you listening to today's podcast. We are having a webinar February 22nd. You can sign up at negotiatex.com/webinar. If you wanna know what we're talking about, we'll be holding a poll on LinkedIn and Facebook to kind of figure out what you want us talk about at that webinar. But again, you can go to negotiatex.com/webinar to sign up and then follow us on LinkedIn and Facebook to take action in that poll and, and to tell us what you want us talk about. So with that, appreciate you listening and we'll see in the next episode,
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