This past year, a few ideas emerged from the 130 Cohear conversations we facilitated. The consistency with which these insights arose in different contexts–such as workforce development, medical care, public health, the arts, and education–speaks not only to their importance, but to the fact that they stem from deeper issues within our systems.
1. Effective Action Relies on Relationships, Representation, and Trust.
Leveraging existing social capital through diverse hiring and partnerships with grassroots organizations creates better programs, policies, and systems, and is especially crucial when engaging new populations or sensitive issues.
“A turning point for me [when I was hesitant about the COVID-19 vaccine] was I attended a panel discussion where there were Black healthcare professionals that answered actual questions to an audience… they were relatable and really provided a different perspective.” –E, public health focus group
2. Everyone Needs Mentorship and Support From law firm partners to people with disabilities, everyday experts shared a desire to be connected to mentors and advocates who can journey with them, provide support, and help ensure their unique needs are being met.
“[There should be] a person going around in these [medical] practices, offices, and hospitals who… their main job instead is to make sure that the person is comfortable and leave with the answers that they need.” –A, public health focus group
“I knew a woman who took me on as more than just a brother or a sister. She took me on as, no, I’m looking at you like you’re my own child… it was that connection that kept me with the [trades].” –N, workforce focus group
3. Listening and Empathy Come First
Empathy and cultural competency, when combined with active listening, do more than just make people more comfortable–they can mean the difference between just and unjust treatment in court, between a correct diagnosis and ignoring a medical emergency. Train front desk employees, teachers, doctors, lawyers, hiring managers, and everyone in between to utilize active listening techniques and seek to understand others’ unique circumstances.
“I would like for people to finally start listening to me and valuing me... When you’ve lived with [a disability], that gives you an experience beyond what any doctor can have, because you’re hands-on with it every day whether you want to be or not.” –M, disability services focus group
“It’s simple: listen, listen. It ain’t easy, but it’s simple… and show that you’re listening… you’ll never know I’m listening until I share back to you what I thought I heard you say.” –A, justice focus group