The Local Voices Network Strives to Forge Understanding through Dialogue
Finding Commonalities and Community
“My background before I joined the Local Voices Network was mostly in having conversations around race in Madison specifically,” said Colleen Butler, LVN’s
capacity-building lead. “What I think is special about LVN is it gives the opportunity for people of color to share their own stories, their own experiences in their
voice and have that be heard in impactful ways across communities without moving in a more tokenizing way of bringing people in to share their experience, but not
really having them be a part of the community. That was one of the things that drew me to the project, the ability of people to share their stories and be heard and
have their voices brought into rooms that they are otherwise not present in. One example is one of the partnerships we are working with right now is The Foundation
for Black Women’s Wellness. Those conversations have been incredibly powerful. We were able to share one of the highlights from those conversations in a
training with medical professionals across the state of Wisconsin.”
It can also be used to allow existing communities to communicate with each other virtually instead of their normal person-to-person encounters. This past fall, LVN
worked with the Latino Professionals Association to virtually put on LPA’s annual Yo Soy event. The LPA had been working on a report called Investing in Latinx
Talent Report. They used conversations facilitated by LVN to enhance the data — and highlight it — that was already collected.
“We wanted to add lived experiences and shared concerns into the report,” said Mathias Lemos Castillo. “So we did this series of conversations for Yo Soy. The
first one was focused around educational pathways where we asked folks about what their educational pathways were, what they liked about it, what their concerns
were and what folks would like to see happen during the next couple of years as it relates to education and professional growth. It was really interesting. We had 3-4
conversations. There were a couple of conversations where we used breakout rooms through Zoom for people to share their experiences. It was very low-key. The
second week, we were focused on career paths and experience. We asked folks questions around what experiences they had around career advancement. And
then, the last week was workplace culture where we asked what was working well and what wasn’t within the workplace, and what they appreciated. Folks just
shared their experiences navigating the professional realm. It was really cool.”
On October 16th, the LPA then held the A Call to Action: Investing in Latinx Talent luncheon, virtually of course. And they utilized the results of the conversations at
“We invited author Andreas De Tapia who is known for writing two books, one of them we used in PLA called Authentico: The Definitive Drive to Career Success,”
Castillo said. “He spoke a little about Latinx professionals here in the United States and then we shared what LPA did after the keynote around what we heard in our
conversations and then opened up to a panel discussion sharing our own experiences as LPA staff around our professional growth and development. I think roughly
40 people participated in the sessions. It was a good engagement. And then for the luncheon, we had roughly 100 participants.”
The LVN resources were also utilized during the Madison Police & Fire Commission’s search for a new Madison police chief. Since in-person testimony, Q&A
sessions and presentations could not happen due to the pandemic, LVN helped facilitate those discussions and input virtually.
“The PFC was looking to do community conversations and engage folks of different backgrounds,” Castillo said. “We did a number of conversations. There were
weekly conversations on Wednesdays starting mid-August and went until September 9th. And then we did a couple of more conversations after the time frame just
to get in some more perspectives. The first round of conversations were very general. We asked the community members to identify themselves and participate in
the conversations. People joined in and we had conversations around what policing would look like, what hopes they had, and what concerns they had. We had
folks who participated in all of the conversations. Some folks participated in a few. It was really interesting. Unfortunately it wasn’t very diverse. When we did the
second round, what LVN did was slip a little bit more of a purpose on getting diverse perspectives into it. And so the difference between the first and second rounds
was that it was more PFC led. There was a PFC member in most of the conversation to answer questions from the public and to take notes.”
They also held some Spanish-language sessions facilitated by groups like the Latino Academy.
“We wanted to get folks from the Latinx perspective who feel more comfortable speaking in Spanish to participate in the conversation,” Castillo said. “We had
seven conversations. They were very different from each other, but very interesting. We then listened to the conversations. We had one of our graduate students
analyze these conversations. We realized very clearly people were giving stories on what it was like to be a person of color here dealing with policing in the last
couple of years in Madison. There was a clear perspective that people of color don’t have that trust with policing right now. There is a power dynamic that is weird.
Fear was brought up a lot. These were topics that kept coming up. We decided to pull this out and create a list of highlights of the voices. All of this can be found on
www.lvn.org/pfc. We created this report. We pulled 57 snippets from 48 people who participated across 31 conversations in this report. We also brought in voices
from previous conversations into this report that happened in Madison before. Some of it focused on conversations we had from August to November. But we also
had conversations we had before that, which also related to policing.”
While Local Voices Network was created to give journalists and others the perspectives of everyday people on the issues of the day, it has evolved while
maintaining that original purpose. People need to communicate for many different reasons and LVN is poised to facilitate those conversations.
Above: Colleen Butler (l-r) and Mathias Lemos Castillo who work in the Madison office of
Local Voices Network.
Part 2 of 2
By Jonathan Gramling
For the past several decades, Americans have almost divided
themselves into tribes whether it is due to economic or social
insecurity. And with the proliferation of media news outlets on cable and
the internet in search of audiences 24/7, often appealing to certain
segments of the population, Americans have also begun to limit their
news consumption to sources that reflect their world view. These news
outlets may emphasize some stories and fail to cover others so that the
viewer is making decisions and forming their perceptions of the world
on slanted sources of facts leaving Americans talking past each other,
utilizing their own set of facts while not considering others.
The Local Voices Network was founded in 2019 to help bridge that
divide by allowing “everyday” people the chance to express their
thoughts in a non-threatening environment and a space to be able to
The format of the Local Voices Network can be arranged and rearranged
to achieve different communication goals. It can have a more
generalized lens that seeks to create connections between members of
the general public or can become more focused to meet a narrower goal.