Let's Talk, Marathon County

Let’s Talk, Marathon County

hands togetherLet’s Talk, Marathon County aims to give a voice to those whose thoughts and ideas have been overshadowed by dominant and polarizing narratives. By bringing together individuals from different backgrounds and viewpoints, this program seeks to create an inclusive space where all voices are heard, valued, and respected.

The Let’s Talk, Marathon County project gathers small groups of residents to meet over the course of two years to engage in conversations about public issues. Participants attend two to four conversations per year with other residents of different backgrounds and viewpoints.

Let’s Talk, Marathon County
How Do We Address Homelessness In Our Communities?

In March, WIPPS conducted the second set of dialogues, this time on the topic of homelessness. The reports from this series can be found below.

A majority of Marathon County residents who participated in the series supported a variety of measures to improve youth mental health in the community. These include expanding the pool of mental health professionals, building emotional regulation into existing health curricula at school, and supporting the well-being of families. 

Participants were selected from a pool of 94 panelists, reflecting the political and urban/rural demographics of Marathon County.  

Notable points from the report include: 

  • In multiple dialogues, there was general support for investments in housing search and navigation assistance in order to connect those looking for housing with available opportunities. However, without an inventory of housing that is affordable, developing a more centralized program to connect people to housing will not be productive.
     
  • Participants generally expressed support for efforts to educate the public about the difficulties and struggles that those experiencing homelessness face and to encourage residents to treat homeless individuals with dignity. Educating the public to counteract stereotypes is important.
     
  • Participants expressed support for mentorship programs that match individuals overcoming addiction with someone who will check on them and help them with tasks, like job searches. However, concerns were raised about the qualifications of mentors and whether this should be a paid or volunteer-based role. 
  • The dialogues were characterized by low levels of disagreement and considerable common ground. Seventy-three percent (73%) of the Let’s Talk dialogue participants reported “none” to “a little” disagreement and 94% reported “quite a bit” or “a great deal” of common ground; about one-fourth (27%) reported “some” disagreement.
     
  • The dialogues helped Let’s Talk panelists expand their views on the issue of how to address homelessness in their communities. About the topic of homelessness, many (56%) reported that they considered perspectives or viewpoints they hadn’t considered before “quite a bit” or “a great deal.” Ninety-one percent (91%) responded that they valued the input provided by the other participants “quite a bit” or “a great deal”; 47% felt that their input was valued “quite a bit” or “a great deal” by the other participants.
     
  • The dialogues were characterized by high levels of respect, including for those with differing views. A majority (82%) of participants reported that those with differing views acted “very respectfully” towards one another. 

The next dialogue topic will be immigration. Those sessions will take place in July and August.  

Let’s Talk, Marathon County
How Do We Support Youth Mental Health In Our Communities?

The first series of dialogues, held in 2023, focused on the topic of youth mental health. The reports from the first series can be found below.

Hablemos, Condado de Marathon: Fortaleciendo comunidades a través de la conversación

About the program

Let’s Talk, Marathon County is a program aimed at fostering constructive conversations among residents on a variety of public issues.

Let’s Talk has been selected as one of 32 grantees for the Healing Starts Here initiative, a nationwide effort to address and understand divisive forces in communities and promote healing. This initiative is funded by New Pluralists, an organization committed to helping Americans recognize our shared humanity, embrace our differences, and solve challenges together. WIPPS was chosen from a pool of almost 800 applicants.

Like much of America, Central Wisconsin is beset by political division, magnified by digital media, which often portrays citizens in a constant state of disagreement around public issues with a shrinking middle ground. Social and popular media offer podiums to the loudest, most persistent voices, which typically represent the opposite poles of the political spectrum.  However, research shows that most Americans do not fall neatly into one political party or the other. A Pew Research poll published in April of 2023 revealed that just 26% of Americans have a favorable opinion of the current Congress.

Project Funding
This project is fully funded by New Pluralists and no taxpayer dollars are being used for this project.

Project Goals:

  1. Create spaces for residents of Central Wisconsin to address issues that matter in a civil and constructive manner;
  2. Build and sustain a community culture of civil dialogue around important issues;
  3. Improve our feelings of trust for fellow residents despite our different viewpoints;
  4. Train a local group of skilled facilitators who are prepared to address issues as the need arises.