The Power of Conversation

By Emily Gluckin

If there is one thing that my RARE position has taught me, it is the power of simply talking to people. All of the progress I have made thus far is all thanks to conversations and tapping into my network.

I spent the first two months of my service with the Polk County Tourism Alliance reaching out and meeting with as many different players in the county’s tourism landscape as possible: city staff, business owners, chamber directors, local citizens, local groups, etc. The purpose of these conversations was for me to learn what the current state of tourism is, and what the challenges and opportunities are for each stakeholder. I also traveled to different places in the county to experience the destinations and assets that the county has to offer (sounds rough, but somebody’s got to do it!). This was crucial in helping me learn what I was entering into and giving me a holistic view of the communities that I am working with. Because tourism touches so many different groups in Polk County, it has been really interesting learning about the topic from a variety of angles. Now backed with a better knowledge of what is going on and what kinds of questions to ask, these conversations have become productive and have created some momentum.

The magical thing about simply talking with people is that great connections usually come out of it, especially in a tight-knit network like Polk County. Talking with one of the steering committee members about her involvement in a camera club resulted in a donation of hundreds of beautiful high-resolution photographs of the county from a local photographer. A meeting with the county’s extension office encouraged them to include Polk County in their survey of agritourism operators. A member of an action team offered her connection to bloggers in the area for publicity. These are just a few examples of successes that have come out of conversations. This is the beauty of an effort that encompasses a wide range of people; everyone has unique skills and connections to offer that will ultimately further the goals of the group as a whole.

This process has also taught me to be flexible. While I keep certain tasks and goals in mind, I recognize that these conversations and opportunities that arise will mean that my work plan may be ever shifting. I have also learned that sometimes the answer lies right in front of you, all you have to do is ask around.

As an extrovert, I love talking to anyone who will listen, meeting new people, and seeing how we could work together going forward. Luckily, the people of Polk County have been more than willing to share their stories and listen to mine. This community is full of committed people, strong connections, and rich opportunities, and we are our own greatest resource.

A bit about Emily Gluckin:

  • B.A. in Environmental Studies with a concentration in Sustainability Studies and a minor in Green Building and Community Design – University of Vermont
  • People may be surprised when they learn that between ages 10 and 14 I lived in Zurich, Switzerland. I was immersed in a culture that was a big contrast to my life in a small town in suburban Connecticut. I learned German, how to navigate public transportation, how to make quick friends in an International school, and how to be a citizen of the world. It created a personal drive to continue learning about and exploring new places. I believe I would be a completely different person without that experience.
  • My most significant accomplishment that I am proud of is the complete on of a large-scale public art installation that I was the project manager of during my previous AmeriCorps service in Montana. The project, known as the Helena Bike Tower, had been in the works for several years before I took the position, and a er 11 months of blood, sweat, and tears (literally)

Does community development work interest you?  Are you looking for a life changing experience in rural Oregon?  Learn more about serving with the RARE AmeriCorps Program via our website:

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