Informed by the theory of change developed earlier this year in collaboration with Onside Partners, the Exchange launched the first of four members-only community engagement workshops in mid-November. With a goal of developing key skills and mindsets needed to develop equitable and responsible community engagement practices, we kicked off our first workshop on deep listening, facilitated by culture change facilitator Kate O’Brien. Designed to empower participants with the knowledge about the steps involved in a deep listening protocol, new listening skills that can be applied to any 1:1 interpersonal scenario at any time, and deeper insight and self-awareness about why deep listening is a key aspect of leadership, network members were able to practice these practical skills and reflect back to the full group.

“One thing we talked about was appreciating the notion of “bracketing” to be able to envision the deliberate act of putting previously conceived notions aside, so as to focus on the situation as objectively as possible.” – Anonymous Workshop Participant

A number of participants remarked on how applicable these tools were, not just for the office, but also for engaging with family and friends. Highlighting the differences between adversarial listening and deep listening helped our members to identify opportunities to be a better bridge in conversations. One remarked that the workshop made “the difference between “reacting” and “responding,” where reacting is defensive and responding is taking a second to think before saying something” more clear.

As with all skills, practice is key and our members walked away with actionable steps for deepening this learning.

“Looking forward to seeing the presentation to have some help with the practice!” – Anonymous Workshop Participant

You can view the full slide deck from the Community Engagement Workshop: Deeper Listening designed by Kate O’Brien here.

This work would not be possible without the generous support of the Kresge Foundation that has enabled us to deepen our commitment to building the leadership skills of current and future local government leaders. If you’re an Exchange member and haven’t already, be sure to register for our second workshop taking place on January 25, 2023. Our second Workshop will be facilitated by River Network and will feature their work on building trust between water utilities and CBOs.

Reach out to Jasmine Harrison,, with any questions.


P.O. Box 6783

Towson, MD 21285