Last night, a crowd gathered outside Paseo Nuevo Cinemas to snatch a coveted seat for the Holden Foundation’s sold-out private screening of Davis Guggenheim’s Waiting for Superman—one day before its scheduled wide-release date. Local teachers, school board candidates, parents, and children were among the 325-plus movie-watchers.

The screening was a prelude to the Holden Foundation’s “We Need to Talk” series, a nine-month community dialogue focusing on children and youth. The inaugural event, “Children and Youth in Our Community—A Holistic Approach to their Needs, Challenges and Opportunities,” will cover specific topics such as curriculum, childhood obesity, health, gangs, drugs and environmental stewardship.

The monthly discussions will be among four to five panelists, filmed in a studio and downloadable from the Holden Foundation’s Web site. Rather than host the discussion in front of an audience, this method is intended to encourage a more open, truthful conversation rather than a performance, said representatives.

“What separates is our vetting process for panelists,” said Tina Fanucchi-Frontado, incoming executive director of the Holden Foundation. “We are working hard to invite and select those who have opposing views and who are not going to be the ‘usual suspects.’ When hot topics come up, it’s kind of a one-sided dialogue with those who are championing the cause. We are not looking for any kind of soapbox or any kind of championship,” she added.

Founded in 1999, the Holden Foundation, formerly the Walter H. Capps Foundation, is dedicated to the late Walter H. Capps’ work and his belief that, at the core of everything good is fearless and open dialogue, said Todd Capps, executive director of the Holden Foundation and son of the late Walter Capps.

But the Holden Foundation’s method consists of two parts: dialogue and action.

“We don’t just have the talk and just hope that change happens,” said Capps. “The goal is to engage the community, help encourage and facilitate best practices outcomes and community-generated maximum efficiency and collaboration. The follow-through is important,” he said.

Capps said he hopes the results and progress made from the discussions can be a model for panels in other communities. The goal is to keep people from being afraid to disagree, to leave their assumptions at the door, and be ready for open and honest debate, with the intention to solve the issue through compromise.

“There’s something transformative that happens when you find common ground amongst opposing views—that’s where the magic happens,” Capps added.

And with Waiting for Superman as the kickoff to their program, it looks like the Holden Foundation has stirred up enough emotions to spark debate.

Proceeds from the screening benefited the Santa Barbara African Heritage Film Series, PUEBLO, and Just Communities. The Holden Foundation thanked Sara Miller McCune for her efforts in making the event possible.


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