Healing the Heart of Democracy Programs & Resources
For those of us who want to see democracy survive and thrive—and we are legion—the heart is where everything begins: that grounded place in each of us where we can overcome fear, rediscover that we are members of one another, and embrace the conflicts that threaten democracy as openings to new life for us and for our nation.
-- from the “Prelude” in Parker J. Palmer’s Healing the Heart of Democracy
At this critical moment in American life, Parker J. Palmer looks with realism and hope at how to deal with our political tensions for the sake of the common good in his latest book, Healing the Heart of Democracy: The Courage to Create a Politics Worthy of the Human Spirit (Jossey-Bass, October 2011). Dr. Palmer and the Center for Courage & Renewal have been close partners in this book since the idea first sparked. That partnership has included much conversation, critical reading of various drafts, two national conferences on democracy in 2010, a live webcast in 2011, and more. The Center has created a range of programs and on-line resources that help individuals and groups explore ideas and implications for civic renewal.
In addition to our programs, you can choose many ways to explore the concepts put forth in Healing the Heart of Democracy:
- Download the Five Habits of the Heart (PDF)
- Download the Reader's Discussion Guide with links to author videos NEW!
- Organize a Healing Democracy Action Circle
- Download the Healing Democracy Action Circles Guide
- Download the Prelude Chapter of Healing the Heart of Democracy
- Listen to Parker discuss his new book in this video
- Buy the book at Amazon or the audio at Audible.com
More below on this page:
- Read articles from our blog
- Discover resources from Wisconsin's Season of Civility interfaith efforts and other online resources
- Visit other blogs where Healing the Heart of Democracy is in the news
- Explore organizations we admire who are doing good work for democracy, civic engagement, and more
Healing the Heart of Democracy Programs
Healing the Heart of Democracy® programs include a range of formats— from skillfully facilitated half- and one-day workshops to three-day retreats—which focus on cultivating five “habits of the heart.”
1. An understanding that we are all in this together
2. An appreciation for the value of “otherness
3. An ability to hold tension in life-giving ways
4. A sense of personal voice and agency
5. A capacity to create community
Contact us (firstname.lastname@example.org or 206-466-2055) if you’d like a custom retreat for your group.
In these programs our focus on democracy is not on something that happens “out there,” totally under the control of people with power and money who are beyond our reach. Rather, we focus on the “pre-political” relationships that begin “right here,” between me and my friends, my neighbors, my colleagues, my fellow parishioners. We explore:
- What we can do in schools and classrooms, for example, to help young people learn to hold conflicting viewpoints in a way that opens them to larger understandings of the world.
- What we can do in religious communities to help adults deal with human diversity, including radical “otherness,” in trusting and trustworthy ways.
- What we can do to preserve and expand the settings of public life where people with dissimilar backgrounds and viewpoints can meet, become comfortable in each other’s presence, and be reminded that we are all in this together.
Online Self-Guided Workshop
Getting to the Heart of the Matter is a 4-week, online self-guided workshop at Cojourneo.com that explores the five habits of the heart through video content with Parker J. Palmer and reflective practice. See more information.
- Seasons of Civility in Wisconsin
- What's "My Vote Doesn't Matter" All About?
- Visiting a Cathedral to Democracy
- Healing Democracy Action Circle: A July 4th “global picnic” at Stonehaven
- Holding Democracy’s Tensions Together
- Healing Democracy with Civic Literacy
- Great minds think alike
- When healing our democracy gets messy
- Healing democracy through heartfelt apology
- Step right up for creativity and renewed citizenship
- Healing Democracy One Circle at a Time
Season of Civility resources. The Wisconsin Council of Churches, the Interfaith Conference of Greater Milwaukee and other partners are sponsoring a “Season of Civility” in 2012 and have created a web page of great resources to supplement our Healing the Heart of Democracy work:
- Healing the Heart of Democracy Action Circles Guide Download a PDF of our action guide, a six-session discussion guide on based on the book Healing the Heart of Democracy by Parker Palmer.
- Links to resources for faith communities including those from the Baha’i, Buddhist, Christian, Islamic, Jewish, and Unitarian Universalist tradition.
- Links to audio, video, and text discussion starters, a convenient list of the resources mentioned in our study guide.
- Five Habits of the Heart, a book review in the Bhutan Observer by Dorji Thinley, PhD, who highlights how people can educate their hearts properly to understand the profound meaning of what it means to lead and govern (posted December 2012).
- How Do You Decide Who to Vote For? Can we apply Parker Palmer's habits of the heart when making our decision at the polls? Courage & Renewal facilitator Karen Erlichman points the way. (Posted October 2012)
- How Book Burning Saved a Library. This YouTube video tells of a grassroots effort in Wisconsin, brought to our attention by Free-RangeThinking.com: When the true intent of the book burning campaign was revealed, Troy residents not only breathed a sigh of relief, they turned out at the polls in numbers 280% higher than predicted. Shocked out of complacency, they passed the tax increase in a landslide and saved the library. More importantly, they demonstrated to us that stories are powerful tools of persuasion. (Posted July 2012)
- Voting Yes for a Library and the Value of Public Spaces. Robert Cornwall, an activist pastor in Troy, Michigan, who was much involved in that movement to save the library, cites Healing the Heart of Democracy as offering a strong argument in support of public libraries. (Posted July 2012)
We offer this alphabetical list of organizations we admire for their commitment to citizenship, diversity, democracy and civic engagement, not to mention storytelling and poetry.
Cal Humanities' Searching for Democracy, a statewide initiative in California designed to animate public conversation on the very nature of democracy through a wide range of public programs leading into the 2012 elections and beyond.
The CfA Commons is a marketplace for open innovation in government, tracking 638 apps in 260 cities. Engagement Commons is a curated collection of apps for civic engagement. For example, here’s a project that enables citizen engagement through a mobile phone app called Textizen.
Citizens for Public Justice is celebrating (in 2013) 50 years of inspiring and transforming public policy (such as issues on poverty and environment) in Canada through their work of faith, justice and politics.
Civic Life Project aims to engage and motivate today’s high school and college students to connect with the fundamentals of our democracy and Constitution such that they not only understand the importance of civic issues, but also recognize their own ability to analyze, evaluate and establish a position on those issues, participate in a dialog concerning them and effect change.
Civic Reflection helps civic groups build capacity, commitment and community through reading and discussion. Since 1998 we have engaged thousands of citizens across America in discussing short readings—poems, stories, essays, scripture—as a means of reflecting on basic questions at the heart of their giving, service and leadership.
The Civil Conversations Project (CCP) is a series of radio shows hosted by Krista Tippet of On Being and an online resource for beginning new conversations in families and communities. ideas and tools for healing our fractured civic spaces.
The Council of Canadians, since 1985, educates and empowers citizens to act for social, economic and environmental justice in Canada and around the world. Canada’s largest citizens’ organization, it promotes progressive policies on fair trade, clean water, energy security, public health care, and other issues.
Front Porch Forum is a free community-building service. Your neighborhood's forum is only open to the people who live there. It's all about helping neighbors connect.
Everyday Democracy helps people of different backgrounds and views talk and work together to solve problems and create communities that work for everyone. Using innovative, participatory approaches, Everyday Democracy works with neighborhoods, cities and towns, regions, and states, placing particular emphasis on the connection between complex public issues and structural racism.
Guiding Lights Network specializes in the art of the gathering, creating experiences that spark civic imagination and social change. This site covers projects led by author/activist Eric Lui, including Civic Collaboratory, The Guiding Lights Weekend (held annually March in Seattle) and Sworn Again America Project.
KAIROS Canada is a network of Canadian churches and religious organizations united in faithful action for justice, ordinary citizens of faith and conscience, working together for extraordinary change, and people from Africa, Latin America, Asia-Pacific and the Middle East partnering with Canadians to change the world.
Living Room Conversations Just as a wildfire can start with a single spark, a shift in culture can start with a single conversation. A living room is the match, the conversation is the spark, and the people will become the wildfire that forever change the landscape we call democracy. This is an open-source project that uncovers common ground through conversations among individuals with differing viewpoints. We dream of respectful conversation becoming the new normal.
Mapping Main Street is a collaborative documentary media project that creates a new map of the country through stories, photos and videos recorded on actual Main Streets. The goal is to document all of the more than 10,000 streets named Main in the United States. We invite you to capture the stories and images of the country today.
Neighborland is a new way to make your city a better place, providing residents, neighborhood organizations, economic development groups, and municipalities with a powerfully simple platform to connect and make good things happen. A healthy neighborhood is a connected neighborhood.
POPVOX bridges the gap between the input the public wants to provide and the information Members of Congress want and need to receive. POPVOX verifies, aggregates, and simplifies communication with Congress on an open and trusted (and nonpartisan) common ground.
ProCon.org researches issues that are controversial and important, and work to present them in a balanced, comprehensive, straightforward, and primarily pro-con format at no charge on our websites. The New York Times called ProCon.org "the most comprehensive tool for researching the candidate’s stance on issues” in an article titled "Great Free Websites for Teaching Election 2012.”
Public Conversations Project prevents and transforms conflicts driven by deep differences in identity, beliefs, or values. Words That Matter is the blog that is a hub for conversation and interaction around issues of dialogue and conflict resolution.