Residents of Merrill, Wisconsin are talking and listening—a lot these days about a wide variety of community and regional concerns. The monthly community discussion program entitled “Building Merrill Together” began this February and will continue for a series of 14 different discussions through March of next year. This program is hosted by the T.B. Scott Library in Merrill and co-supported by the Library, the Interactivity Foundation, and the Wisconsin Institute for Public Policy & Service (WIPPS), a unit of the University of Wisconsin Extension and UW Colleges.
This extensive discussion program grew out of, and was inspired in part, by two initial or pilot discussions facilitated by IF at the Library last October as part of IF’s 2016 library partnership initiative. The October discussions, also co-sponsored by WIPPS and the Library, appear to have helped energize citizen interest. The discussions not only inspired the development of the Building Merrill Together discussion program, they also led to the formation of a separate citizen group that is meeting regularly to “further explore issues of community importance and enhance citizen communication with city and county government.”
But wait, there’s more. To further strengthen the community’s discussion capacity, its “civic muscle,” IF is also co-sponsoring a two-session workshop series on “Learning Civil Discourse: Skills for Leading Discussions.” In partnership with the Library and UW-Extension-Lincoln County, IF led the first session on facilitating community dialogues and deliberative forums on Saturday, April 29, 2017. The second session on leading “action planning” meetings will be led by UW-Extension and held the following Saturday, May 6th.