The first thing I think of when I think of CEP is data. And exceptionally good data at that. As a former survey researcher trained up within RAND’s Survey Research Group, my relationship with data is like that of an oenophile to wine; not just any data will do. The source of the data, the way the data are collected, the integrity with which the data are handled and processed, and the way they are combined through statistical analysis into a final product all matter greatly to me. CEP staff, from very early on, earned my respect as fellow data geeks in the trenches of data collection and analysis.

But if you aren’t a data geek like me, that last paragraph is, well, boring! There is nothing personal or human-sounding about it. There are no words that indicate what is at the root of the practice of survey research, which in actuality is born of caring enough to ask another human about their personal experience in order to learn more and potentially change something based on it. You capture a sliver of their story through the process, and that is inherently personal.

What struck me as a frying-pan-to-the-head moment at the conference this year was that, at the heart of it all, what CEP is doing — through their survey assessments and through the curated agenda and speaker lineup at the conference — is elevating the importance of really listening, and then listening some more.

And we’re not talking here about the kind of listening-but-not-really-hearing that we do most of the time. The power of true listening begins with being present and open to another person’s perspectives and realities, continues with a curiosity toward another’s views on reality that allows you to go deeper with them and better understand via their own personal window on the world, and often ends with takeaways and learnings that change the insights and trajectories that you as an individual may not have come up with on your own.

Read the full article about listening by Sarah Cotton Nelson at The Center for Effective Philanthropy.