Following a successful pilot community conversation in the spring, the Goshen Community Relations Commission (CRC) and Goshen Community Schools (GCS) will embark on a series of events in the next several months that will encourage discourse around topics that uniquely affect Goshen’s residents.

A series of three community conversations—all open to the public—will be held at various locations throughout the city this fall, each addressing a different theme that arose from participating members at a pilot conversation in April. The series of conversations is called “Growing Goshen Together” (GGT).

Jes Stoltzfus Buller, a skilled facilitator with significant experience in collaborative group dialogue, will host the conversations in a World Café format. This method of small group, round-table discussion offers an intimate setting that invites curiosity and helps build relationships, while giving everyone a chance to speak. 

Interpretation will be offered at each table between English and Spanish, so that participants may share in whichever language is most comfortable for them. All information and introductory comments will also be provided in both English and Spanish. 

After each conversation, the facilitator will write a report based on table notes and comments, and post-event surveys. The report will include highlights from the conversation about themes that emerged, as well as ideas or recommendations.

The information will serve as a springboard for the creation of an action plan in each area. Representatives from CRC, GCS and Goshen City will create a core action team and for each conversation/theme, conversation participants and key stakeholders will be invited to join. This team will evaluate the report and will come up with concrete next steps and follow-up plans. 

“Goshen is that rare community where we not only say we embrace diversity, we live the values of acceptance, appreciation and celebration of diversity every day,” said Steve Hope, deputy superintendent at GCS and a member of the GGT series committee. “Also central to the mission of Goshen Community Schools, we are pleased to partner with the city’s Community Relations Commission in supporting this series of community conversations. At the heart of any vibrant and economically strong community is a strong school system. Through each conversation the Goshen Community Schools also learns and grows and is better able to support each and every one of our students.”

CRC and GCS began conversations in 2018 to brainstorm possibilities toward building bridges between diverse groups in the community. Recognizing diversity of all kinds throughout the city, they saw an opportunity for promoting tolerance, understanding and gratitude for all people. This led to a pilot community conversation, Growing Goshen Together, on April 25, 2019, held at Goshen High School. Responses from that event called for more conversations. Through continued conversations about the issues facing the Goshen community, CRC and GCS hope to continue fostering relationships throughout the Goshen community.  

The following information offers details about the upcoming fall conversation series. A potential spring series is in the works, pending approval from the CRC. 

A culture that learns: Our schools and community together • September 26, 2019 • 6–8 p.m. • Boys and Girls Club
Summary:This conversation will offer the opportunity to learn from the community’s schools, which are home to embodied diversity in Goshen, lived out in practice every day. The conversation will focus on what is going well in our schools and where growth is needed. How can our schools better serve the families in Goshen, and what is their role in the larger community?

How Goshen grows: Balancing power and raising up leaders • October 24, 2019 • 6–8 p.m. • Shanklin Park, Schrock Pavilion
Summary: This conversation will address leadership and power in the Goshen community.  Participants will have the opportunity to speak into successful balances of power and how that is created, as well as look at challenges to equalized power.  How does one access power and how does the community grow capacity and leadership to provide opportunities for shared power?

Who is Goshen: Telling our stories • November 14, 2019 • 6–8 p.m. • Boys and Girls Club
Summary: This conversation will provide space to get to know others in the community by listening and sharing about identity and the experiences that shape each person. How have our experiences shaped our values?  Bridging divides requires knowing one another—can we learn to know each other and move from strangers to friends?