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Living Room Conversations

Amanda Kathryn Roman of the Citizens in Charge Foundation and Joan Blades of MoveOn.org and MomsRising collaborated in 2012 to launch a project aimed at promoting civil conversations: www.LivingRoomConversations.org. It is an open-source project that provides a simple structure for respectful conversations among friends & friends of friends around political issues that are typically polarizing.

It leverages the common sense of average citizens and believes that through a movement beginning with intimate local conversations, citizens from across the political spectrum just might be able to short circuit the destructive political dynamics we find ourselves trapped in. This model can be applied to any issue or area in which a community finds tension or friction but wants to work towards a solution and it does not require a trained facilitator.

LRC was honored when Craig Newmark of Craigslist named the project 1 of 16 People & Organizations that are Changing the World in 2012: http://craigconnects.org/2011/12/changing-the-world-in-2012.html.

Between December 2010 and June 2011, LRC conducted a pilot project, eight Living Room Conversations convened in five states – Colorado, California, Washington, New Hampshire and North Carolina. For these first conversations, they chose the topic of energy independence/climate change.  They tested the hypothesis that people can come together through their existing 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 members who shared their political worldview to join an evening of conversation. These initial conversations 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.  You can read the full report about the pilot project.

Ground Rules for Living Room Conversations…

Be Curious and Open to Learning
Listen to and be open to hearing all points of view. Maintain an attitude of exploration and learning. Conversation is as much about listening as it is about talking.

Show Respect and Suspend Judgment
Human beings tend to judge one another, do your best not to. Setting judgments aside will better enable you to learn from others and help them feel respected and appreciated.

Look for Common Ground
In this conversation, we look for what we agree on and simply appreciate that we will disagree on some beliefs and opinions.

Be Authentic and Welcome that from Others
Share what’s important to you. Speak authentically from your personal and heartfelt experience. Be considerate to others who are doing the same.

Be Purposeful and to the Point
Notice if what you are conveying is or is not “on purpose” to the question at hand. Notice if you are making the same point more than once.

Own and Guide the Conversation
Take responsibility for the quality of your participation and the quality of the conversation by noticing what’s happening and actively support getting yourself and others back “on purpose” when needed.

Resource Link: www.LivingRoomConversations.org

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