Civic Life Institute educates on problem solving

Photo Provided Susan Aloi, co-chair of West Virginia Center for Civic Life; West Virginia University at Parkersburg President Chris Gilmer and Delegate Vernon Criss, R-Wood, talk at Thursday’s reception at the Oakland mansion in Parkersburg honoring the West Virginia Center for Civic Life, the Kettering Foundation and its guests from five continents.

PARKERSBURG — People from five continents learned ways of having a community discussion to solve problems in their communities during workshops Thursday and Friday at West Virginia University at Parkersburg.

The West Virginia Center for Civic Life (WVCCL) developed the public sessions to help citizens start conversations about issues facing the state by encouraging fresh, innovative thinking, according to a WVUP press release. The nonpartisan discussions took place during WVCCL’s annual Civic Life Institute in the College Activities Center.

A discussion topic was how to solve the opioid-substance abuse problem. Also discussed was the future of the workforce in West Virginia and how to help these workers.

Participants looked at the impact of technology and solutions in helping to train people for future jobs.

The workshops mentioned the importance of all people with different points of view working together to address an issue, said Betty Knighton of Charleston, former director of WVCCL. People must find a way to talk about the issues facing them, she said.

Jean Ambrose of Wood County, WVCCL representative, was moderator for this week’s program.

People from around the state, other parts of the country and from around the world attended the Civic Life Institute event. Participants were from Fiji, Ghana, Russia, New Zealand, Colombia and Pakistan through the work of the Kettering Foundation in Dayton, Ohio. Local students also attended.

Ambrose said participants learned that drug abuse is an international problem. Those attending learned how people in other countries deal with issues and problems facing them.

People from various countries wanted to learn about how democracy could work better in their countries, Ambrose said.

Peabody award-winner Trey Kay, producer of the nationally recognized “Us & Them” podcast, led a session at the Civic Life Institute that explored the cultural issues that often divide us.

“WVU Parkersburg was deeply honored to host the West Virginia Center for Civic Life’s Summer Institute 2019 with participants from five continents and throughout West Virginia and the nation,” said WVUP President Chris Gilmer. “Their purpose, to train citizens on the art of civil discourse, how to keep the channels of communication respectfully open even when we disagree, is essential for the time in which we live. We look forward to an expanding partnership with this important organization and with the Kettering Foundation.”

West Virginia University at Parkersburg held a reception at the Oakland mansion in Parkersburg Thursday evening to honor the West Virginia Center for Civic Life, the Kettering Foundation and its guests from five continents.

Over the past 20 years, the WVCCL has partnered with hundreds of organizations and thousands of individuals in community-based initiatives to address issues related to the health, education and economic well-being of West Virginia residents, such as What’s Next WV, a statewide initiative designed to help communities plan actions based on their own ideas for building stronger local economies, according to a press release.

“We need to find productive ways to talk to each other, especially when we disagree,” Ambrose said in the WVUP press release. “It is our goal to help diverse sectors in the community develop habits of listening to each other, taking ownership of problems together and working toward solutions that work for all.”