100 Days of Conversation Project and The Importance of Community Agreements

On this episode of the Getting Smart Podcast, Tom is joined by a group of young changemakers, and Dr. Erin Raab, Chief Strategy and Impact Officer of the Choice-filled Lives Network. Together, they discuss the 100 Days of Conversation project, a collaborative project organized to catalyze conversations in communities across the country on each of the first 100 days of the new administration.

Alongside Erin, three young men are setting the stage for impactful and life-changing conversations in Minnesota. They are Cole Stevens, Walter Cortina, and Jose Perez and together they run an organization called Bridgemakers.

We love the energy and urgency of this conversation as well as the continued emphasis on student voice. You won’t want to miss this one! Let’s listen in.

100 Days of Conversation is a community revisioning process that is student-centered. It is a collaboration of the Local Voices Network, ReinvisionEd and the Human Restoration Project. This collaborative helps to facilitate conversations in communities between educators, young people, families, asking some of the most important questions of our time:

  • What’s a good life?
  • What’s a community?
  • How can we make our experience of school closer to a good life?

Bridgemakers is a youth organizing organization that makes sure youth voice is heard. The goal is to mentor support youth and to focus on a set amount of people who can change the world. Throughout the conversation, Cole, Walter and Jose made it clear that the policies and systems that affect young people must have young people present at the time of the decision-making. “No decision will be made about us without us,” said Cole.

These inspiring young people have overcome a great deal of adversity and continue to support their families. “We have neglected, we have been patronized, we have been ignored,” said Cole.

100 Days of Conversation not only helps youth voice to be heard but the process of being heard also builds independence and agency. “On my linkedin, my education is listed as the internet,” said Cole. These conversations also provide valuable insights, next steps and priorities for the adults and community members who join the conversation. These conversations are recorded and then analyzed for policy recommendations.

Perhaps the best part about 100 Days of Conversation is that it is so simple to set up. A local host signs up and then gets an intergenerational group together of 6-8 people. The rest is smooth sailing. Free video links are sent to the participants, and all that is required of participants is active listening and being willing to share. So far, the project has had a variety of participants. Some whole districts have risen to meet the opportunity, some rural districts have implemented these conversations across a whole town.

“I’m gonna take Bridgemakers to the moon,” said Cole Stevens, “I really want young people to be able to vote on funding, staffing, curriculum decisions in their schools.”

Jose said of the collaboration between Bridgemakers and 100 Days of Conversation, “Anything we do together is going to consolidate in greatness.” Soon Bridgemakers will be rolling out a fellowship program.

Engage with the project on social media using the handle @100DaysConv.

Key Takeaways:

[:08] About today’s episode.
[:53] Tom welcomes Dr. Erin Raab and the three young men to the podcast.
[1:11] Dr. Erin Raab speaks about her career and how reimagining education became a central part of her mission.
[2:43] Dr. Raab speaks about where the insight that community conversations are key to unlocking potential comes from.
[4:18] Dr. Raab shares about how she ran into the three young gentlemen accompanying her on the podcast today and what led them to work together.
[6:00] Walter introduces himself and explains what Bridgemakers is all about.
[6:49] Cole introduces himself and continues to share about what they do with Bridgemakers, the achievements they’ve had over the year, and how they tie in with the “100 Days of Conversations” project.
[10:40] Jose introduces himself and shares how he connected with Bridgemakers.
[12:58] Walter speaks about the other goals Bridgemaker is setting out to achieve.
[15:03] Walter shares how he got involved with this work.
[15:30] Walter shares how the High School for the Recording Arts (HSRA) has helped him do what he does today.
[16:22] Cole speaks about his high school experience and why it has driven a lot of his passion for school.
[17:57] Where did Cole’s passion for difference-making and reimagining education come from?
[21:17] Dr. Raab shares more about the ins and outs of the “100 Days of Conversations” project.
[24:30] Walter shares more about his experience with being both a participant and host with the “100 Days of Conversations” project.
[25:42] Jose shares his own experience with the “100 Days of Conversations” project.
[28:03] Cole shares his own experience with the “100 Days of Conversations” project and how Bridgemakers helped him with his agency and confidence.
[29:28] Walter speaks about how both the youth and the adults come away from these conversations feeling enlightened and empowered.
[30:31] Are school administrators and system heads generally sponsoring these conversations? How are they involved and what are the hoped-for outcomes for them as well as the students and parents involved?
[33:19] How being a conversation host has changed Walter and the way he thinks about his path forward. Walter also shares what’s next on his roadmap.
[35:00] Dr. Raab shares what’s next for the “100 Days of Conversations” project. She also shares what she’s learned through this initiative and the aspirations for change that she hopes will come as a result of it.
[38:32] Cole shares about his next steps and how he is going to take his Bridgemakers experience forward.
[42:05] Tom thanks all three young men for their leadership at Bridgemakers.
[42:17] Tom thanks Dr. Erin Raab for her work and she shares where to learn more about the “100 Days of Conversations” project.

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Getting Smart Staff

The Getting Smart Staff believes in learning out loud and always being an advocate for things that we are excited about. As a result, we write a lot. Do you have a story we should cover? Email [email protected]

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