Guest Post: The Stoughton Conversations Project -- Discussions That Matter

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by Stephanie Patton, MPH, Prevention Coordinator, OASIS Coalition

In October 2017, the town of  Stoughton, Massachusetts hosted Dr. Jeff Linkenbach for a 2-day Science of the Positive Leadership Institute for 35 local leaders from the government and non-profit worlds. Together we explored the balance between Hope with Concern, the differences between Change and Transformation, and the Transformational Cycle of  Spirit, Science, Action and Return. Our group was one of the first to take the Science of the Positive Transformational Leadership Assessment, and we dove into spirited conversations about our leadership strengths and challenges as we build Stoughton into a healther, stronger community. Participants "graduated" from this Institute with renewed energy, new connections and ideas, and a commitment to continue to work together using the Science of the Positive.

And thus the Stoughton Conversations Project was born! We decided to create regular opportunities for town employees, members of local boards & commissions, and passionate community members to come together and discuss topics of local importance using the Science of the Positive Framework as a guide. Hosted by the OASIS Coalition, the topics are developed by the group and the discussions structured around the Spirit, Science, Action, Return Cycle. We start each meeting by sharing a part of Dr. Linkenbach's Science of the Positive Framework; this serves as a review for those who attended the leadership institute and as an introduction to the framework for new participants.

Through these conversations, the OASIS Coalition hopes to build strong community leaders who are able to have productive, difficult discussions. Leaders -- and conversations -- like these are necessary to create a community in which youth and families feel more connected. These conversations also support some of our other goals, including fostering and strengthening community connections, developing local leaders' ability to hear and steer conversations, and supporting the development of personal leadership styles.

Our first Stoughton Conversation was held on November 8, 2017 at the Stoughton Youth Commission. Thirty-one individuals attended. The topic for our first discussion was Hopes and Concerns about the role of social media in Stoughton -- a response to a series of local issues that had "blown up" on Facebook. The conversations were rich and varied. Participants talked about their hopes and concerns, misperceptions that are fueled by Facebook and, finally, how they can hear and steer conversations that unfold on social media.  We’ve since hosted conversation on  "Moving Forward After Community Conflict" and "Stoughton Ideas and Innovations". We believe that these conversations will help our coalition meet our goals and foster community change.  We are grateful to our ongoing work with Dr. Linkenbach to support the development of positive leaders who will grow and support a culture of health in our community.