This winter, SPEAK partnered with the Vermont Institute of Natural Science (VINS) to offer a course focused on promoting advocacy skills for area community members. Participants came to the program with varying levels of experience. Beginning with simple introductions and gradually scaling up, by the end of the class each participant was able to stand in front of the group and deliver over five minutes of structured debate. The program culminated in a debate on the motion “This House Supports a Statewide Carbon Tax.” The program ran for four weeks and was run by VLS volunteers Laura Savall and Charlotte Grose.
The program was aimed at teaching professionals how to communicate efficiently, confidently, and effectively. Our partnership with VINS allowed us to grow beyond our traditional audience and attract professionals of all different backgrounds, from school teachers to real estate agents to college students. We even had two people participate exclusively via Skype – another first!
As often happens, participants came into the program wanting to be able to articulate a particular viewpoint to a specific audience. This can often mean that people are less comfortable occupying conflicting sides of the argument, which can make the challenge of effectively delivering a speech all the more daunting. After working with SPEAK, the individuals were able to stand up in an open room, with a microphone, and effectively advocate their assigned position on carbon tax, regardless of their personally held perspective on the issue.
Reflecting on the experience, instructor Charlotte Grose said, “Watching professionals go from answering questions in their seats to standing up in front of the room with a smile was a true gift. I was honored to be apart of the experience.”
We are grateful to VINS for partnering with us to help better equip Vermont’s community advocates, and look forward to running similar programs in the future!