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February 24, 2009

The Economy and Your Neighborhood

Five people attended this Living Room Dialogue which was intended to combine sharing information about the economy and our neighborhoods with practice in using the dialogue skill of listening. Because we were such a small group we decided to use the opportunity to practice active listening skills fishbowl style. In pairs, each person talked about her observations on the effect of the economic downturn in her neighborhood while another person listened, summarized what she had heard and asked clarifying questions. The rest of the group observed the interaction and shared their observations about the process afterward. Everyone had a chance to speak and to listen.

All agreed that the opportunity to do this improved their understanding of how to use the active listening process effectively. Since the object of active listening is to let the speaker know that the listener completely understood what she was saying, we looked at some interactions in terms of how necessary it is for the listener to recount all of what the speaker said. We also tried out ways of asking questions to get at what the speaker might be feeling about what she said.

The five participants came from diverse living situations: two live in a co-op apartment building on the East Side of Manhattan, one lives in a cooperative community in the Bronx, one lives in an affluent section of Brooklyn and one in a New Jersey suburb. Some of the things they noticed in their various communities were: small shops closing up in Manhattan; empty stores in the New Jersey suburb; fewer nannies to be seen on the streets of the Brooklyn neighborhood and more Dads taking children to school; fewer riders on the subway going from Brooklyn to Wall Street despite a reduction in the number of trains running, and disputes in the Bronx co-op over the necessity of raising the monthly carrying charge.

A question that arose was that since it seems necessary to keep money circulating for businesses to survive, should people feel a responsibility not to hoard money and to keep on spending? One participant made the point that she believes it makes more sense and is more human to organize the economy on a local and regional basis rather than on the corporatized global basis we now have, but that making such a change would cause serious disruption and pain to many people. Another wondered about those nannies who have lost their jobs in Brooklyn and, since many come from the Caribbean and other places, how that will affect the families back home dependent on money coming from the U.S.

Such questions take us to the next Living Room Dialogue, the third in a series on the economy, at which we will discuss the economy and the world. It will take place Monday, February 24, 6:30pm at the home of one of the Networks supporters. An RSVP is necessary call 212-426-5818.


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