September 6, 2022

Powerful Listening through Purposeful Questions — What it means to Evolve

Rachel Hettinger, TPF Fellow 2022/23

Author’s Note: For those interested in learning about the 2022 Suncoast Remake Learning Days, click here. Or watch our recap video here.

When I learned about Suncoast Remake Learning Days (SRLD) and that I would be working on it, my first thought was, “oh, okay, well, that will come down the pipe later,” except the next thing I was told was there were nine listening tour meetings I needed to join. It only took a few moments of reflection to learn why The Patterson Foundation was embarking on a listening tour in June and July when SRLD had just wrapped up in May. It was because of three things: the power of questions, the power of listening, and TPF’s value of ever-evolving.

The purpose of this listening tour was, you guessed it, to listen! Overall, organizations that participated in the 2022 SRLD were invited to attend a listening tour meeting and give us their feedback. However, to get honest feedback, you have to have two things: trust and powerful questions. Thanks to the SRLD team, who worked hand in hand with these organizations for the inaugural success, trust was already built. Now it was up to us to ask the right questions.

Recently, I have been taking a class by Hildy Gottlieb, co-founder of Creating the Future, where we have been pondering catalytic thinking. One of the most thought-provoking things that came up was, “in order to be a good listener, you have to ask the types of questions that make your audience feel like they own the space.” Essentially, this shifts the power dynamic to the audience.

So we shared at the start of each listening tour meeting that we had over 10,000 participants across the 10-day festival and 150 events made possible by them. After that, we just asked questions oriented around them, such as “what worked well for YOU” and “what could’ve been improved for YOU,” and let them run with it.

This created a safe space where organizations did share what could’ve been better for them. Now, those findings are being crafted into a shareable one-pager that shows how much bigger and better 2023 Suncoast Remake Learning Days will be! However, this listening tour is a huge reason why it will be better. These organizations are helping to further TPF’s value of evolving by staying connected just two months after SRLD ended and trusting that changes for 2023 will be implemented.

For me, this was quite the process to be involved in to practice powerful listening through purposeful questions. I can already see how the SRLD team is building off of what was already great and turning it into something even greater. With excitement building for the 2023 Suncoast Remake Learning Days, I am just grateful to be a part of actively strengthening this effort by something as easy as listening.

 


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