Pages tagged "Featured Blog"

Lessons from George Washington: It's Time We Listened!

By Brian Clancy, Big Tent Nation. Reposted from

We all want America to flourish and prosper, but disagreements on “how” keep tripping us up. How is much more than picking between policy prescriptions – at its core it involves how we treat each other, and particularly those we disagree with.

The person most essential to realizing America in the first place thought about this issue a lot. It’s time to revisit his legacy.

4 Lessons That 2017 Taught us About Change

By Katie Hyten, Essential Partners. Reposted from

When we entered into 2017, our country reeled from the election less than two months earlier. People seemed to retreat to their corners and prepare for battle, terrified of or thrilled for what the next year would bring. As this year progressed, our team often felt like we had front row tickets to this tension: when to engage, and when to fight? As we spoke with people working to shift the dynamics of polarization in their community, we often saw this tension firsthand: yes, we need to have better conversations. But also, their views are repugnant and we must stop them. How can these two poles come together to create the communities we want to work and live in?

1. Change is hard. (And it requires more than one tool.)

At Essential Partners, we help people in their communities come together and have the conversations they need to have, but seem impossible. Whether it’s helping a college community rethink how they help students feel included on campus, or helping journalists and judges in Finland think intentionally about how they speak about refugees; having those conversations is essential.

But just this past year, we have seen important other tools move toward change: marches, policy change, persuasive writing, and activism. That said, every group working towards change requires communication as a tool to hear voices within the group and communicate goals within and outside that group.

Rebuilding Trust Through Dialogue

By Annie Pottorff, Communications Coordinator, Jefferson Center. Reposted from Jefferson Center.

In the past year, common narratives about democracy have hinged on one main focal point: a severe absence of trust. We’ve heard that American trust in government fell to historic lows and that trust in the news media eroded as a result of  social media echo-chambers and partisan news outlets. Knowing this, it’s easy to feel discouraged. But, what’s actually going on in communities across the nation? Has this distrust led citizens to give up on their local governments and institutions?

Last year, we saw the opposite–sure, people were frustrated. But they were also energized to meet with their neighbors, learn more about issues that affect their communities, and do something. In a year where divisiveness and partisanship were identified as critical challenges to the health of our democracy, it was incredible to see citizens working together to create change.

Bridge Alliance in 2018

Bridge Alliance in 2018


We are proud of our accomplishments -- but we are not resting on our laurels!  

In just three years, the Bridge Alliance has grown to an alliance of 83 organizations with new members invited quarterly. We are barely past start-up in creating a vibrant and powerful collaborative community of organizations, each working to strengthen democracy. With the right combination of strategy, funding, and collaboration this community can significantly amplify the power of what each organization is doing individually.


We have an exciting year planned for 2018. Some highlights:

  • Backbone Services - includes a journalist outreach program, peer to peer opportunities, and continuing the Weekly Update on latest member happenings and events.
  • Media Campaign - a unified media delivery system plan that will run for at least three months, reaching approximately 5 million additional people and collecting an estimated 15,000 email addresses.
  • Leadership Council - Bridge Alliance member leaders will share ownership in enacting the 2018 plan and amplify our message.
  • Fundraising Campaign - Our goal is to raise $2,500,000 of which 80-85% goes to fund round two of BA Action Grants.
  • New American Tapestry Portfolio for Bridge Action Grants - This is the basis for our fundraising campaign and is a collection of impact projects that represent the variety of areas we work in and which must be worked on simultaneously.  

Want more information?  Keep reading!

Country Before Party - My Entry into the Democratic Reform Movement

By Jeremy Garson, Legal Counsel & Associate Project Director, Bridge Alliance

My name is Jeremy Garson and I am a recovering partisan. For years I had a reflexive need to defend anything and everything “my party” (the Democratic Party) said and did. I would forgo critical thinking when I saw a “D” or “R” attached to news and assume that “my side” was right and “the other side” was wrong. Even worse, my intellectual surrender affected my personal interactions; I was an amateur spin doctor even with my closest friends. I was completed addicted to the “us vs. them” construct that plagues modern day politics.

My recent conversion to nonpartisanship wasn’t born out of thin air. I’ve always had a small voice in my head pushing me to be more independent-minded. This independent voice is best demonstrated in my relationships. Throughout the years, I’ve had a strong tendency to befriend people with different political viewpoints. In fact, this progressive will have a libertarian standing by his side as he gets married this Fall.

New Year's Resolution: Talk with the Other Side

By John Gable, CEO, AllSides.  Reposted from
Happy New Year's from AllSides! Every year, millions of people make New Year's resolutions, all of which are set with the very best of intentions. Many resolutions are focused on the self. There are people looking to lose weight or quit smoking, travel more or work less. Some people last untilJanuary 31st, some people last a few months, and the very disciplined among us might actually last the whole year. This year however, AllSides is challenging you to try something different. We want to challenge you to seek out and talk to the "other". Maybe you are a Democrat who surrounds themselves with other like-minded Democrats. Go out and find a Republican to chat with! A great first step is to sign the Listen First pledge to "listen to understand and consider other views". 
Below we list 3 organizations/projects who are working to connect people with the "other" in their lives. If you are interested in more organizations, check out the Bridge Alliance.

Common Good Proposes A New Governing Philosophy

By Josh Ferguson, Social Strategy & Content Manager, Common Good

Americans of all political stripes are frustrated. Over 70% are not satisfied with the way the U.S. is governed. Congress’ approval numbers are near record lows. According to a recent Gallup poll, Americans cited the U.S. government itself as the most important problem facing the nation.

President Trump was ostensibly sent to Washington on the back of this growing dissatisfaction to “drain the swamp,” just as Obama promised “Change We Can Believe In” -- but what does either slogan mean in practice?

Neither political party is offering a coherent vision for reforming a federal government that virtually every political observer agrees is fundamentally broken. What’s needed, what Americans are hungry for, goes far beyond tax reform or new social programs. What’s needed, in the view of Common Good, is a new governing philosophy.



Three Ways to Open Someone's Mind: Lessons From Sales

By Erik Fogg, Chief, ReConsider

You know arguing with people doesn't really work. Presenting people with facts that contradict their beliefs actually backfires and causes them to dig in more.

After hearing this, most people throw up their hands. They assume this means not only that changing people's minds is impossible, but that this "backfire" effect totally-only-happens-to-people-who-disagree-with-me.

But there are people outside of politics whose well-being and next meal depend on opening people's minds: they're in sales. Their job, over and over, requires getting people to open their minds to the idea of parting with their hard-earned money in exchange for a thing... often, a thing they didn't know existed until just now!

More than Bill O'Reilly or John Stewart, these salespeople have a lot to teach us about how to get folks to listen and put themselves in a mindset where they're ready to disagree. We've applied each of these in political discussions to great effect, too.

The crux behind each of these is that people tend to agree with people they identify with. You see it in politics; you also see it in sales. That's why salespeople ask you about yourself and chat you up before asking you to part with your cash.

Preserving and Protecting Our Precious Civic Ecosystem

By Jacob Z. Hess, Ph.D.

Lots of attention is going today to physical habitat under siege (and for good reason):  without more attention, many of these beautiful areas might go away, or be irreparably damaged. For that reason, many believe that energy invested in this protection and preservation is well spent.  

Far less attention, however, goes to the way our civic ecosystem remains under increasing siege. What began as occasional concern for the hostility in the U.S. media and elected leaders, has become widespread trepidation regarding public animosities deepening in every direction, on nearly every issue.  

Some believe that without more attention, this precious civic ecosystem could go away or likewise become irreparably damaged, thus prompting similar calls for additional investment to protect and preserve this fragile democratic habitat.

A case study in Utah. Starting in 2014, I had the opportunity to work for Living Room Conversations in a Utah experiment to help cultivate the civic ecosystem there. Rather than plowing up the roots already in place (or riding into town with the “newfangled solutions”), it felt important to build upon and leverage whatever rich habitat already existed. 

Staying Connected in the Midst of Differences

By Parisa Parsa, Executive Director, Essential Partners

In 1989, a group of therapists engaged in some commiseration at their shared Cambridge practice. They discussed a concern about what had become of sane discourse about weighty issues of policy in the United States. At that time one of the therapists, Laura Chasin was a doctoral student of government with a special interest in the philosophy of John Dewey, who in the late 1800’s expressed his profound belief in expressing how democracy and ethical ideals of humanity were synonymous.

In the office with the others, Laura shared how she was particularly distressed by the chaos and ineffectiveness of public debates about abortion. Her colleagues Corky Becker, Dick Chasin and Sallyann Roth, along with researcher and editor Maggie Herzig, puzzled at how much was lost in the public shouting matches that passed for debate. The mutual understanding, restoration of trust and sheer humanity that was the bedrock of effective family therapy were utterly absent from the publicly televised conversations about some of our most critical social and political issues. What was common however, were disjointed policies, stalemate and a devolution of the social fabric in communities around the country, just when our democracy needed solutions most.

From the confines of those pivotal hours of discourse, the question the group considered was, “Could the practices of family therapy be engaged to build relationship and understanding, and restore trust among folks who were deeply divided on issues that were rooted in their core values?” That question motivated years of research and the development of the practices at the core of the Public Conversations Project, now Essential Partners.

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