Meet Alexis Stickel
Alexis received her Bachelor of Arts in International Studies and Spanish with a minor in Latin American Studies from the Clark Honors College at the University of Oregon. Lexi went on to get Master’s degrees in Conflict and Dispute Resolution and in International Studies, as well as a Graduate Certificate in Nonprofit Management. She then moved on to work for the Rural Education Institute of Mexico as the Director of Operations, where she worked to expand the institute’s communications and developmental abilities. Lexi hopes that the RARE AmeriCorps Program will provide her with the opportunity to learn from a community of talented young professionals as well as from her placement organization and community in order for her to give back to it at the grassroots level. After her year with RARE, Lexi plans to work in the nonprofit sector utilizing conflict resolution skills to assist in the expansion of services to vulnerable or under-represented communities.
About Marion-Polk Food Share
Marion-Polk Food Share (MPFS) is the regional food bank leading the fight to end hunger in Marion and Polk counties. More than 44,000 people, including 16,000 children, receive emergency food each month through the Food Share Partner Network. As the second largest of 20 regional food banks in the Oregon Food Bank Network, MPFS collects and distributes nutritional foods to food pantries, meal sites, foster homes, low-income day care centers, shelters, and senior housing sites.
Lexi is placed with Marion-Polk Food Share where she will conduct a comprehensive inventory of regional food systems and resources within Marion and Polk Counties. Alexis will examine local food self-sufficiency including local retail, livable wage farming, and local farmers markets. She will also work to form partnerships with the local farming and agricultural community as a means to increase involvement, and to increase the ability to produce and market locally grown products.
I am working on the Comprehensive Economic Development Strategy (CEDS) Update project this term with the Community Planning Workshop. A major component of the project involves meeting regularly with regional stakeholders with the main focus of these meetings being stakeholder participation. The data collected from these meetings is important information, as it will frame how the goals and objectives for the CEDS will be refined and affirmed from the previous CEDS. A key tool for successful meeting facilitation is a communication technique called active listening. Active listening is tool that promotes open communication, helps resolve conflicts, limits misunderstandings, and builds trusts among participants.
Reflective Feedback – a key component
A key component of active listening is providing reflective feedback. Reflective feedback summarizes or paraphrases what the speaker said and why it is important to the group. This type of interaction helps participants build relationships within their group and keeps communication open and easy.
I noticed in our first meeting that by rephrasing a speaker’s ideas and intent each participant felt that their concerns and priorities were being heard and would be incorporated into a final CEDS product. Using this technique I also noticed that it helped set the tone of the meeting and laid a foundation for clarity and understanding. Without being prompted, participants were naturally using reflective feedback as a way to communicate with each other. Such a natural response to the technique meant the meeting did not feel forced and the conversations evolved organically.
Why it works
Active listening works because it makes it easier to see the world through others’ eyes, giving us the potential to gain deeper insight and understanding into the assumptions that other perspectives adopt in their decision making process.
About the Author: Blake Helm is a Master’s in Community and Regional Planning student. In another life he spent his time as a rock-star slinging coffee and cake at a local bakery. Nowadays he spends most of his time keeping his 10-month-old daughter alive and writing memos.