by Courtney Martin
In a robust democracy the likes of which we are trying to create, there is room for everyone's bright ideas about fostering dialogue. That's why we've been so excited to run across so many different approaches to strengthening the public life as of late. One of those approaches is Living Room Conversations, formed in the last couple of years to promote more civil dialogue among people with differing political ideologies. Their goal is to create conversations that root out that shared space--the overlapping circles in the old Venn Diagram--where Republicans and Democrats can find common ground. Here's a bit more about their model:
"Between December 2010 and June 2011, we conducted a pilot project with 6 Living Room Conversations convened in three states with project team observers – Colorado, California and Washington & 2 Living Room Conversations independently convened without project team observers in New Hampshire and North Carolina. For these first conversations, we chose the topic of energy independence/climate change. Living Room Conversations (LRC) was initiated to test the hypothesis that people could come together through their social networks, as friends and friends of friends and engage in a self-guided structured conversation about a charged political issue. Each conversation had self-identified 'progressive' and 'conservative' co-hosts. Each host invited two of their friends or family that shared their political worldview to join an evening of conversation. We are thrilled to report that this initial exploration demonstrated that meaningful conversation is not only possible in this context it is in fact, deeply appreciated and for many participants was transformational. Participants expressed surprise that it was possible to "go so deep" with people they did not know and gratitude for the experience. More than half indicated a desire to have more conversations of this nature."
Living Room Conversations is scheduled to continue unfolding in other cities, and with other issues. We've introduced their organizers to Parker's latest book, as well as our own work on reawakening the public life through our Healing Democracy Action Circles, the Healing the Heart of Democracy book club, and other initiatives.
What other efforts like this have you been running across in your region or field? What are the strengths and challenges of each approach? What inspires you?
Note: Courtney is the author of our Healing Democracy Action Circles guide. We hope you'll sign up to lead a circle! Learn more here, and be sure to follow along with us here on the blog, on our Facebook page, and on Twitter (@couragerenewal)!