Six Rivers has embarked on an exciting national project that focuses on listening to the needs and interests of young adults (ages 21-35) in our community. Six Rivers is one of five centers from around the USA to be selected by the National Association for Community Mediation/JAMS Foundation to participate in the 2020-2022 cohort of their Mini-Grant Program. This two-year program provides funding and mentoring to participating community mediation centers to help them develop “innovative and effective programs that can be replicated by community mediation centers nationwide and serve as a pathway to their sustainability and growth” (jamsadr.com).
Each year the NAFCM/JAMS Foundation brings together a small group of mediation centers to focus on an area of community need, with the goal of fostering change within the community. In previous years, the program has focused on veterans, aging and elder care, homelessness, and those who are re-entering their communities after incarceration. For our cohort, Six Rivers is working with four other mediation centers across the nation to focus on “bringing young adults into the life and work of community mediation centers around issues of race, ethnicity and economic marginalization.”
We are honored to be part of such an innovative, enriching program and are excited to see where it will take us. What has our Young Adult NAFCM/JAM Mini-Grant Project looked like so far? What kinds of things have been happening?
• Our project team—Colleen Regalbuto, Kenji Stasiewicz, and Nicolia Mehrling—have spent the first stage of our project listening to better understand what it’s like to be a young adult in the Gorge. What areas of need or challenge exist? Young adults (ages 21-35) are sometimes a forgotten population. Many young adults are doing the hard work of forging independent lives and new identities, but often without the support networks that were available earlier in their lives.
• Our team reached out to young adults from different backgrounds who are all currently living in the Gorge. Through many conversations, some done individually and some done as a group, young adults shared their observations and insights with honesty and generosity. Many appreciated the chance to be listened to.
• We also reached out to organizations in the area who work with young adults and included them in our community conversations in hopes of learning more, building trust, and strengthening community relationships.
• Our team has met regularly with a NAFCM mentor and four other mediation centers from around the country to learn how to use mediation tools to deepen our conversations and explore how to develop partnerships that can effectively address the needs of young adults. As we’ve learned from NAFCM, “Community mediation is community mobilization.”
“Plant seeds . . . see what germinates.”
–D.G. Mawn, NAFCM mentor
Planting seeds and watching to see what grows is the next step of our Young Adult NAFCM/JAM Foundation Mini-Grant Project. This next year we’ll be exploring potential partnerships with community organizations that might be interested in taking our conversation to the next level by developing a project that addresses young adult needs in the Gorge. Here at Six Rivers, we’ve noticed that some seeds have already sprouted. Our project team have all expressed appreciation for the personal growth that the project has brought:
• Project Manager Colleen Regalbuto says she’s enjoyed the chance to be part of a community of mediation centers from around the country and to learn from D.G. Mawn, the NAFCM mentor who directs the national project. Colleen enjoyed getting to know all the interesting people from our own community who took part in the project. She was inspired by the young adult desire to contribute positively to the community.
• Project Advisor Kenji Stasiewicz writes, “Working with Six Rivers DRC on the NAFCM Young Adult Project was a wonderful experience and great honor. Not only did I have the oversight and leadership from a national organization, I also got to connect with local young adults and listen to their exceptional stories. Wild that the entire process was conducted over Zoom and I didn’t meet my co-conspirator Colleen (in the flesh) until it concluded… ’tis the landscape we’re navigating in the new world after all~!”
• Six Rivers Program Manager Nicolia Mehrling writes, “The NAFCM project showed Six Rivers DRC how to take the central principles and behaviors of mediation – listening, building trust, identifying interests, and creating collaborative solutions – and apply them to a grant-funded project. In order to do this, NAFCM led us to reflect on our own values, assets, and abilities with a methodical depth that surprised me. This project shows us, and the community, the value of the mediation mindset in all ventures, not just in the mediation room.”
Here are a few facts about our NAFCM Young Adult Project and what makes it so special.
• For starters, what is NAFCM? NAFCM is the National Association for Community Mediation. They help to spread the word about the power of community mediation to strengthen relationships, solve problems, and help people get their needs met. One of the ways NAFCM does this is by selecting a few mediation centers each year to participate in their Mini-Grant Program.
• So, has Six Rivers been selected for the Mini-Grant program? Yes! Six Rivers is one of five mediation centers from across the country selected to be part of the 2020-2022 NAFCM/JAMS Foundation Mini-Grant Program. And we’re the only center from a small, rural community. The other centers are from large cities like New Orleans and San Francisco.
• How is the NAFCM/JAMS Foundation Mini-Grant Program different than other grant programs? Usually, when a nonprofit organization applies for a grant, it already has a project in mind. It knows exactly what it would like to do with the grant money. The people at NAFCM have a motto: Move at the speed of relationships. They believe that the best way to help people get what they need is first to listen closely to the people who are most affected. Understand what the need is, and then build relationships between partners who can work on solutions together. NAFCM knows that this process takes time and money. Their Mini-Grant Program makes this listening and relationship-building possible.
• Who is Six Rivers listening to for this project? Six Rivers, and the four other mediation centers in our program, are listening to young adults (ages 21-35) in our community to understand what their needs are, especially in areas like race, ethnicity, and economic marginalization.
• Building relationships and community partnerships sounds like a great way to create meaningful change in a community. Is that the goal of the program? Yes, it’s an important goal. There are two others. One is to help mediation centers add new processes and skills to their mediation tool boxes. The other is to create a road map for other community mediation centers who want to do something similar.
• So, in time, Six Rivers’s NAFCM Young Adult Project could be used to help other communities address the needs of their young adults? Yes! And we find this an exciting possibility.