Changing the Conversation Together – Round One in Bucks County

Contributed by Deb Kline.

In Doylestown on a very warm, late summer Sunday, close to 50 people participated in the pilot training of Changing the Conversation – Bucks (CTC). CTC offers a new model for canvassing – one based in dialogue, personal stories, active listening and discussion about what’s important to the people who opened the door to CTC canvassers. 

Adam Barnabel-Fried, director of CTC, and several of his team traveled from Brooklyn to lead and mentor the newbies, supported by more local folks including Cindi Sternfeld and Jennifer Jarrett. Participants spent the morning watching videos and role models, then practicing what to do when a voter’s door opens and to this question: 

“If President Trump was with us right now and you had two minutes to talk with him, what would you want to say?”

Encouraged to develop and use personal stories of caring about the people we think of when we pull the lever, participants attempted to elicit responses that broke from the normal canvassing methods and its focus on candidate talking points. 

In real life, conversing with strangers pulled from the Eagles game or a block party proved to be both challenging and rewarding. Responses to the possibility of speaking with Trump about what’s on their minds were varied and often surprising. Some wanted to tell him to stop Tweeting or that he was doing a good job; others wouldn’t speak to him, or wanted to tell him how awful he was. But, just because someone didn’t like him, didn’t automatically mean they planned to vote Democrat. 

The day ended with an evaluation session back at the University, covering experiences and next steps. Most participants were excited, despite the challenges of sharing and attempting to elicit personal stories. 

Undoubtedly, there is more work to do in many areas from training to timing, and especially learning how to have a respectful, caring dialogue with people who think Trump is doing a great job. But it’s a start, and one that’s sorely needed. 

The next training is scheduled for November after the election. Sign-up capability will be sent out in the near future. 

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