Durham Red and Blue Participants at the June 2019 Better Angels National Convention – Reflections on Polarization and Steps to Bridge the Gap

How does a group that focuses on local dialogue of 12-25 people create a meaningful national convention of 300 delegates? Made up of people who deeply disagree with each other’s ideologies? Well, Better Angels did so June 20-23 in St. Louis.

Delegates register in pairs, one “Red” (a conservative viewpoint) and one “Blue” (a liberal viewpoint) from the same community. The rule insures balance of participants. I spoke with two Durham, NC participants.

Establishing Credibility

Better Angels aims to keep its integrity through balancing the Red/Blue in their work. That extends to:

  1. Board of Directors – balance by affiliation
  2. Funding sources: this really is the difference between commitment and talk.
  3. Not endorsing candidates or ballot measures (However, local affiliates of Better Angels might work on policy, which could lead to endorsing a policy created in a Red + Blue way).

Immanuel:  I listened carefully as the described the structure of Better Angels nationally. They were clear about their money sources, reasons to keep membership inexpensive and their foundations connections. Their commitment to only receive money to maintain a 50/50 balance from liberal and conservative sources is admirable. Money is the real test. Their team has taken that vow. That means a lot to me.  Integrity must permeate an enterprise such as Better Angels. Continue Reading

Finding Common Ground During a Divided Time

“I never considered a difference of opinion in politics, in religion, in philosophy, as cause for withdrawing from a friend.” – Thomas Jefferson to William Hamilton, April 22, 1800

If you’re involved in community engagement in any way, thank you. Your commitment to dialogue and pragmatism is perhaps more important today than it has been in decades. Whether you serve as a volunteer, board member, advocate, whatever, please know that your work is helpful and appreciated.

After the most recent presidential election, a Gallup poll found that a large majority of Americans, 77%, felt the country was divided; that’s the highest percentage the company has ever recorded. Only one in five said they felt that Americans were unified.

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Using Public Convenings to Advance Police Community Relations – Part 2: Meeting Design Principles that Advance Understanding

davidc no smile, blue suitWe welcome Dr. David Campt to the CELE blog. David lives near Eden, NC and works across the U.S. on many community engagement projects.

This article is the second in a two-part series that reflects my experiences in designing and facilitating meetings on police-community relations. Part 1 reviewed a meeting were a group of black ministers were thinking over their options for what kind of meeting they might want to have and who might be invited. This article (Part 2) will review my approach to dialogic meeting design, including some specifics about ways to ask and sequence questions to foster engagement and empathy.

Part 1 of this blog post framed the core decisions about meeting strategy as focusing on two primary questions: 1) Who will attend the meeting? and 2) What will be the primary mode of information flow during the meeting? For the first question about meeting attendees, three options presented were civilians of color, white civilians, and police officers.  With respect to the dominant mode of the meeting, the article posited that there three primary meeting modes (download, feedback, crosstalk);  as the blog post discussed, one of these tends to be the dominant mode at any moment.

While it is certainly possible to pursue multiple goals in the same meeting – and thus use multiple modes – there are cases where it makes more sense to narrow the goals of any particular meeting. What is most important is that the meeting designer and convener push themselves to clarify their objectives. For the sake of this discussion, I will focus on a meeting that is designed to focus on building empathy between white civilians and civilians of color.  Thus, the examples provided will assume that police officers are not present in the meeting. The general approach to meeting design has been useful when police have been present.

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