The National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy

December 2, 2009


The Public Conversations Project's work with the National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy looks different than the more typical training workshops and dialogue facilitation that we do.  Our expertise in dialogue has been relevant in perhaps surprising ways.

Good questions, thoughtful interviews, and reflective insights served the National Campaign Initiative’s initial effort to learn about the issue of unplanned pregnancy at community colleges.  It turns out that community college students want more than to be given facts, flyers, and condom—they want to talk about this issue.  This is a generation that expects to interact, challenge the experts and one another, and bring their personal experience to bear on important questions.

Open-ended inquiry on this issue is important because preventing unplanned pregnancy among young adults at community colleges is complicated.   Students spend limited time at school, and are generally more independent and carrying more responsibilities than teens and the typical four-year college student.  They have a lot at stake in being successful in school, including possibly being the first in their families to attend college, or the children of recent immigrants.  But many factors can derail them; a high percentage of community college students don’t graduate, including those experiencing an unplanned pregnancy.

All of this means that encouraging open-ended inquiry—what we call mapping in our process work—is crucial. This learning needs to be ongoing. The Public Conversations Project has been coordinating learning among the three colleges chosen to conduct pilot prevention efforts and, now, is turning early lessons into guidance to help other schools get started.

Mapping the situation, fostering curiosity, building relationships, deepening understanding—the Public Conversations Project's core elements are all at work in this project.

Looking forward, we think a new publication from the National Campaign offers good "food for dialogue." Rethinking ResponsibilityReflections on Sex and Accountability   presents short essays from thirty serious thinkers across the liberal-conservative spectrum.   They share many values and concerns, but they also disagree on what sexual responsibility means (such as whether it means premarital chastity) and what young people should be told about it.  It's a respectful presentation of the full range of perspectives that gets the reader thinking. And it provokes questions.

The questions raised are for the adults (including me) who want to see responsibility about sex in the younger generation. Our lives, not just our words, communicate. Do we understand the implications? You can see my full thinking about this on the National Campaign Web site where you can also access the essays from Rethinking Responsibility. If you get jazzed about getting people into conversation—on your campus, in your church, at the PTA, wherever—let us know!