The "Portsmouth Listens" project uses Study Circles to engage citizens in deep dialogue about a wide range of city issues, from school bullying to sustainability, budgeting, and the city's master plan.
The Portsmouth Listens initiative which brings together groups of committed local citizens through the Study Circles approach, to work in conjunction with the City of Portsmouth, the City's neighborhoods, and the Chamber of Commerce to develop new understandings about local concerns and hypothesize creative solutions for them. So far, study circles have been effectively used in Portsmouth and more than 200 communities.
Portsmouth Listens started around controversial issues of school violence more than ten years ago, allowing residents to have civil dialogues and arrive at creative solutions. Groups of eight to 15 people meet with a facilitator for one two-hour session a week, for four consecutive weeks, to discuss and learn about issues, consider other viewpoints, and develop solutions.
Since then, Portsmouth Listens has organized study circles around a range of other issues, from helping citizens to meet and learn about political candidates to working on sustainability and the City's master planning process. The Planning Board will use participants' input and priorities to help develop the Portsmouth Master Plan. The City Council is currently incorporating citizens' feedback in the budgeting process, in one of the U.S.'s first examples of participatory budgeting.
Over the last ten years, Portsmouth has engaged more than 1200 residents in over 10,000 hours of constructive deliberative dialogue.