Listening Session Resources

Summary

Justice United has come to the end of a three-year cycle of organizing that began with a relational listening campaign, and that led to our organization ratifying a grassroots agenda focused on housing and education. 

This cycle of organizing has helped surface and engage many new, talented leaders from across our county. Our membership base has grown, and Justice United is active in more communities than ever before. At the same time, we have a need to understand what is happening in our community in light of COVID-19, and to reconnect with each other after a full year of physical distancing.  

Our goal: engage 800 in a listening campaign between now and June 1. You can learn more about our Power Strategy here.

Resources

Download Listening Session Outline and Note Taking Form Here

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Justice United Launches Listening Campaign!

Close to 90 Justice United leaders gathered at our Countywide Leaders Meeting Thursday night to ratify the launch of our listening campaign, pledging to engage 1,000 members of their institutions over the next four months. The purpose of the campaign is to strengthen the relationships within and between our institutions, and to identify the top pressures impacting our communities countywide. 

The Listening Campaign has two parts: 

1) Face to face conversations between 200 Justice United leaders in March for the purpose of building public relationships, trust, and understanding between our many diverse institutions and communities.

Turnout Goal: 15-20 members from each participating institution to one of two relational meeting events in March (see below).  

2) A training series in April that will equip all participants with the ability to organize a series of listening sessions in their institutions: small group conversations of 10-15 people, for the purpose of identifying the top pressures facing our communities and surfacing shared interests and concerns.

Turnout Goal: 5-10 members from each participating institution to attend training in April (see below). 

Relational Meeting Events

Justice United will organize two virtual relational meeting events to bring our members together in conversation. Events will open with brief training, and then participants will be broken out into groups of two several times over the course of the evening. Turnout Goal: 15-20 members from each participating institution

The relational meeting events will be the same -- choose the day that works best for you!  

Relational Meeting Event 1
Thursday, March 4, 7:00 PM - 8:00 PM
Please Register in Advance Here

Relational Meeting Event 2
Tuesday, March 9, 7:00 PM - 8:00 PM
Please Register in Advance Here

Listening Session Training

The listening session trainings will be the same -- choose the day that works best for you!  

Justice United has organized two workshops in April to teach leaders how to organize and facilitate a listening session in their community. Turnout Goal: 5-10 members from each participating institution

Listening Session Training 1
Tuesday, April 13, 7:00 PM - 8:30 PM
Please Register in Advance Here

Listening Session Training 2
Monday, April 19, 7:00 PM - 8:30 PM
Please Register in Advance Here

 

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Creating Change You Can See! February 2021 Progress Report

Close to 90 Justice United leaders joined gathered on Zoom Thursday night during our Countywide Leaders Meeting to hear progress reports from our issue campaigns and to shape and ratify a vision for making change in 2021. Progress reports from our active campaigns are listed below. 

Campaign to Increase Teacher Diversity and Bi-Lingual Staff at Orange County Schools

Dr. Monique Felder, OCS Superintendent, and key OCS staff attended our meeting to report progress increasing teacher diversity and bi-lingual staff across the school district. A few key takeaways: 

- hiring of African American teachers is increasing slowly, but steadily;
- bi-lingual staff, by raw numbers, has significantly increased from 2019-2020 to 2020-2021;
- funding for beginning teacher support programs has helped increase retention. 

The full report from OCS is available here

Campaign to Improve Conditions in Local Mobile Home Parks

Increasingly, Orange County mobile home parks are being purchased by out of town hedge funds and investment firms, who then raise the rent, charge outrageous fees and fines, and neglect infrastructure. Mobile home parks are the last, largest class of affordable housing left in the county. 

With the support of Justice United, neighborhood leaders in three local mobile home parks have been able to hold the owners of their mobile home parks accountable to resolving substandard conditions and unfair treatment. See a chart here with updates on what we have accomplished together

Leaders have committed to developing long term neighborhood associations to continue this work, are attending organizing training, and are working with Justice United in a new partnership with ROC USA to identify potential opportunities to buy their parks and run them as cooperatives. 

2020 Individual Donor Campaign

Justice United exceeded our 2020 Individual Donor Campaign goals, raising $22,826 (goal = $20,000). The funds raised will support Justice United's general operating expenses incurred during the training and development of local leaders with the capacity to act effectively and address injustice across Orange County. Justice United will organize a 2021 Individual Donor Campaign in the late spring, early summer. More information about this will be available soon. 

 

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Leaders Win Major New Investments in Local Mobile Home Parks!

For the last year, Justice United has supported neighborhood leaders in three local mobile home parks in organizing their communities and holding the park owners accountable to address serious concerns including failing septic systems, failing wells, dangerous trees, and excessive rent hikes, fees, and fines.

We've made promising progress! See the chart below for a summary report of improvements made in each park this year.

With your support we have been able to continue to this important work and help win real, tangible progress on concrete issues. THANK YOU!

This work is not yet over, and Justice United remains committed to monitoring this progress in the new year.

Click on the chart below to view and download the updates as a PDF file.

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Justice United's Mid Year Report

Across the nation, the COVID-19 epidemic and killings of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, and Breonna Taylor unveiled what we have always known: that America is not working for all of us. It is working only for some of us at the expense of
somebody else. In the midst of these crises Justice United leaders answered the call to build and exercise our collective power from the bottom up, and to begin to create a new political and economic reality that ensures equity for all.

This year we have organized and delivered hundreds of members from our institutions and won significant investment in our community. Download our mid-year report below to learn what we have accomplished together so far!

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Campaign to Improve Mobile Home Parks

Here are the latest updates from Justice United's campaign to improve conditions in three local mobile home parks. 


$30,000 Victory at Mobile Home Park B!

Thursday, July 2, 2020

Over 50 Justice United members supported neighborhood leaders from Mobile Home Park B during their negotiations with the park owner.

We have great news! Neighborhood leaders won commitments from the owner to forgive all arrears and debts for residents: a total value of at least $30,000! The debts had accumulated from inadequate park management and miscommunication. 

Before Thursday's negotiation neighborhood leaders had identified debt forgiveness as their top priority. They're now celebrating this big win!! Many thanks to the JU members who demonstrated our power to the owner and helped set the tone for building a public relationship.

This win comes in the context of big changes for the park. The owner has accepted an offer of $1.1 million to sell the park to an out-of-state company, and plans to close within the month. Neighborhood leaders had pushed hard for the debt forgiveness issue since it was one commitment the owner could control, even with the sale imminent.

If the park sale closes as planned, leaders will continue organizing to build a public relationship with the new owners. They'll also continue pushing for trash service, improved water, and more responsive office management. The current owner has guaranteed that his commitment to build a new well will carry over to the new owners, so the leaders will also be holding the new company accountable for well construction.

More soon! In the meantime, many thanks again for standing with the residents of Mobile Home Park B as they negotiated this victory!

Progress at Mobile Home Park A!

Thursday, June 18

Over 100 Justice United members supported neighborhood leaders from Mobile Home Park A last night during their first negotiation with park ownership. 

There is good progress to report. 

Neighborhood leaders led the negotiation and won initial commitments from the owners to address unsafe and unhealthy conditions in their mobile home park. Leaders also secured commitments from the owners to attend a second meeting. Ultimately the goal is to establish an ongoing public working relationship with the owners.

Below we've detailed how the owners reacted to each of four resident-led proposals. 

For next steps, residents will hold the owners accountable for their commitments and will develop a strategy to increase pressure behind the proposals where they didn’t win a full commitment.

We will update Justice United leaders regularly to report on progress and future actions with Mobile Home Park A. We know it was challenging and angering for many on the call to hear executives from a multi-million-dollar capital investment company dismiss the residents' descriptions of financial difficulty during COVID-19. We're going to keep organizing!

Your solidarity has already been a source of encouragement for the residents. They frequently remind each other that Justice United members will be standing with them. Thank you again for your support!

Proposal 1: Postpone the rent increase (currently proposed for August)

Reaction: NO. Executive explained that the company is prioritizing shareholders' earnings. He did, however, agree to another conversation about the rent.

Proposal 2: Fix septic system failures that are currently creating open pools of foul-smelling septic water, and commit to a regular septic system maintenance schedule.

Reaction: YES. The owner will assess the failing areas and begin repairs within the month.

Proposal 3: Remove hazardous and fallen trees, and commit to regular tree inspection to prevent trees from crushing residents' property (which has happened in the past).

Reaction: YES. Owner committed to assessing trees within 2-4 weeks, and tree removal in the fall.

Proposal 4: Pave the pothole-ridden roads, which have caused accidents, are dangerous in wet/snowy weather, and require expensive car repairs.

Reaction: PARTIAL YES. Owner committed to adding new gravel and improved maintenance, but said paving would be too expensive for the company at this time. 

Additional win: The owner agreed to meet again with the residents within the month to report progress on commitments and continue negotiations.

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Relational Canvassing

Relational canvassing is a tool that can help neighborhood leaders organize their power and address concerns that include substandard conditions, safety, the lack of infrastructure, and the threat of displacement by rising rents or property taxes. On March 2 over 100 Justice United members ratified a proposal to use relational canvassing to support these neighborhood leaders.  

Relational canvassing is a deeper form of canvassing than just simply handing out a flyer, or asking someone to complete a survey. It involves a 10-15 minute conversation with someone at their doorstep, to introduce ourselves, hear their story, identify concerns, and see if they have the appetite to take action. 

These relational canvasses are part of Justice United's ongoing listening session campaign. Our goal is to engage more than 600 members of our congregations and communities by May 31 to identify the top pressures and concerns facing our families. Ultimately this campaign will lead to the creation of a new grassroots issue agenda.  

Neighborhoods, Dates, Times

Justice United has been to support leaders in the neighborhoods that surround our institutions or where members of our congregations live: 1) Piney Grove; 2) Fairview; and at least two mobile home parks in Chapel Hill and Hillsborough. These neighborhoods represent over 550 predominantly working class, African American and Latino households. 

Canvassing Dates and Times (Sign Up Below)

Saturday, April 04, 10:00 am — 1:00 pm;

Saturday, April 18, 10:00 am — 1:00 pm;

Saturday, May 02,  10:00 am — 1:00 pm.

Training will be provided to all participants from 10:00 am—11:00 am during each canvass. Repeat participants do not need to attend training and can come one hour late. Canvassers will be trained at the UU Congregation of Hillsborough (1710 Old NC Hwy 10) and will then depart to knock on doors in one or more of the above neighborhoods.

Everyone who participates in relational canvassing will receive training beforehand, will be given materials, and will go in pairs. Each canvass will involve both neighborhood leaders and outside supporters.

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Success! African American Teacher Hiring Quadrupled at OCS

Orange County Schools Board of Education Chair Will Atherton, Superintendent Dr. Monique Felder, and HR Director Connie Brimmer attended Justice United's Internal Assembly on March 2 to report on progress increasing teacher diversity through alternative licensure programs that Justice United first asked the Board to strengthen in 2018. They were joined by OCS teachers Wanda Rittenhouse and Monique McAdoo who shared testimony on their experiences with these programs. The full report from the OCS leadership is available here.

The bottom line: Orange County Schools has more than quadrupled the hiring of African American teachers from the 2018/2019 hiring season to the 2019/2020 school year.

Justice United leaders have invested over two years of effort in this campaign to increase teacher diversity within Orange County Schools; a campaign that has now delivered real, tangible results. We are proud to celebrate this success and will continue to monitor progress on this issue over the long term.   

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Justice United's 2020 Strategy

Close to 50 leaders from 12 institutions across Orange County met on Thursday, December 5 to report on progress with house meetings, and to ratify our vision for building relational power in 2020. House Meeting progress report here.

Leaders ratified a strategy for spring 2020 centered around two events: an Internal Assembly on March 2 where we will launch our relational canvassing campaign, and our 2020 Friends of Justice United Individual Donor Campaign Breakfast Kickoff on March 11 (see below).

Justice United Internal Assembly
Monday, March 2, 7:00 pm - 8:30 pm
Hillsborough (Location TBD)
Confirm your attendance here

Leaders have already pledged to turn out over 100 members of their institutions for an important internal assembly on Monday, March 2.

At the Assembly we will launch a relational canvassing campaign to engage hundreds of local residents in key neighborhoods where Justice United has been invited to help neighbors connect, identify their top concerns, and organize for change.

New OCS Superintendent Dr. Monique Felder and Board of Education Chair Will Atherton have committed to attend this assembly and report on progress addressing racial hiring disparities within teaching staff. 

Friends of Justice United Breakfast Kickoff Event
Wednesday, March 11, 7:30 am - 9:00 am
Church of the Holy Family
210 Hayes Rd, Chapel Hill
Confirm your attendance here

Justice United’s 2020 individual donation goal is to raise $20,000 to build our power to make change and deepen our presence across Orange County. We will kick off our 2020 Friends of Justice United individual donor campaign on Wednesday, March 11 at an 7:30 AM breakfast event. 

The event will include testimonials about our accomplishments, with featured speaker Luke Bretherton, a Duke Theologian who studies the intersections of religion, democracy, and organizing. 

The proposal is for every institution to commit to bring at least one table’s worth of people (eight people) and to nominate a table captain who will liaise with the money team leading up to the event. Everyone in attendance will be asked to consider making a gift in support of Justice United's work. 

 

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House Meeting Progress Report

Report from House Meetings, To Date

At our Countywide Leaders Meeting on August 22, JU leaders pledged to engage members of their institutions in house meetings to: 1) begin to identify the top pressures and concerns facing our families today; 2) to identify leaders with the appetite to act and make change. 

We’ve made progress on this goal. This fall over 40 leaders attended training to learn how to lead house meetings, and engaged roughly 150 members of their communities in these conversations. Top concerns surfaced during these house meetings so far include: 

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