On the one hand, the quest has been deeply personal: that of a woman striving to affirm the feminine as wife, mother, and friend, while reaching, always reaching, beyond the limits imposed by the obligations of a woman's life. On the other hand, it has been in some sense deeply public as well: that of a person struggling to connect to the undertaking of education . . . to the making and remaking of a public space, a space of dialogue and possibility. . . . The aim is to find (or create) an authentic public space, that is, one in which diverse human beings can appear before one another as, to quote Hanna Arendt, "the best they know how to be." Such a space requires the provision of opportunities for the articulation of multiple perspectives in multiple idioms, out of which something common can be brought into being. It requires, as well, a consciousness of the normative as well as the possible: of what ought to be, from a moral and ethical point of view, and what is in the making, what might be in an always open world.
MAXINE GREENE ( 1988, P. XI)
Satisfied that the Listening Partners experience did enable a number of very isolated young mothers to gain a voice and claim the powers of mind, we wanted to continue exploring these issues. The next step, we thought, would be to look at well-established, successful, ongoing projects women have created for bringing an excluded group into voice and encouraging people to become fuller participants in community life. We thought that such a study would reveal important aspects of the work that could not be seen with a time-limited experiment like Listening Partners. We also believed that the study would reveal aspects of women's leadership that have gone unnoticed and unnamed.
Although the organizations selected for study were very dissimilar in many regards, they met the two criteria we required for participation: