As the Wausau area population has become more diverse, residents have had more opportunities to learn about cultures, lifestyles and views different than their own. At the same time, the community has been exposed to real ethnic cultural and gender divisions with deep roots that are rarely acknowledged, much less understood.
One Wausau brings together community members from all walks of life to talk openly, listen earnestly and act in unity to make the greater Wausau area safe, welcoming and an attractive place for all and not just some. From September 2017- October of 2018, more than 600 community members participated in listening sessions, story circles and deliberate dialogues that were designed to help people learn about living in an increasingly diverse community and making Wausau a welcoming place for people of different ethnic, cultural, religious, gender, socioeconomic and other backgrounds. This project aims to help people talk openly and, where possible, to find common ground for action around addressing these complex issues in a constructive way.
“We need to be able to talk about difficult issues in civil ways. And, to be able to express differences and similarities, we may discover that we have more things in common than we thought before we started,” said Richard Block, one of One Wausau’s organizers.
Based on the comments that were shared, One Wausau was able to create a guide that created awareness around issues of diversity. Working with trained facilitators and using the guide, residents considered relevant facts and values from multiple points of view; listened to each other and considered the underlying tensions and tough choices inherent to complex public issues. These conversations led to finding resolutions for action. You can read the full report from those sessions here.
But, their work is not done. One Wausau will continue searching for common ground by holding regular public dialogues about issues in the community, increasing positive media focus on diversity, sponsoring diverse community events, creating a social norms campaign highlighting the diversity of the community and instituting a community “get to know you” project. Funds from the Game Changer Grant will assist with costs associated with these events, creating awareness of One Wausau and leadership development for their board.
Congratulations One Wausau!