The Board of the PRT recently discussed how we might serve as a catalyst and vehicle to help start conversations that could bridge divisions in the community. It’s a role that community newspapers have played, often with some success. Our goals would be to
identify those issues where we can come to agreement as a community. And for the issues where we cannot agree, to facilitate more constructive ways to navigate our differences.
The PRT might work with the key institutions in town, the churches, school, community/senior center, and library to promote and convene discussions. For example, we might sponsor a monthly discussion table at the Senior Center during lunch led by rotating leaders. The PRT would contribute to the Senior Center for the lunches of all participants and would have a staff available to cover the key points of the discussion.
Another example is forums sponsored by the PRT at the high school, where a student might be a discussion leader. Support would be offered by PRT staff for student reporting on the discussions for the paper and perhaps with crafting recommendations to decision makers in the School District or Town Council.
We could provide ideas and tools for individuals to become bridge builders. For example, we could recruit a group of people who are interested in creating more conversations at the individual and neighbor level. We could offer training about how to engage and constructively discuss controversial issues combined with some suggested topics, and an ongoing group for bridge builders to share experiences and develop additional strategies.
We would publicize the results of these community conversations in the paper and online. We could solicit and print op-ed columns that arise from these conversations.
The PRT could sponsor, perhaps in partnership with other community groups, an annual Community Conversation event to highlight the successes and the challenges of trying to bridge divides within our community.
The PRT is a community paper and we strive to be a voice and source of information for all the residents of Patagonia, Sonoita, Elgin, and Canelo. While this effort would be focused
first on Patagonia, we hope to expand it to focus on issues facing our other communities.
Before we embark on these or other strategies, we want to hear from you. Please respond by email or Facebook or to our website www. patagoniaregionaltimes.org. Do you like the concept? If yes, which of the specific ideas? Would you participate? What else can we do?
If we receive enough positive responses, we will convene a group to prioritize strategies and begin as early as this fall. We want to know what you think.