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Note from Joan Blades on the Living Room Conversations proposal for the NCDD Catalyst Awards

Here’s a message from Joan Blades (co-founder of MoveOn.org and MomsRising) to the NCDD community.  Joan is working with Amanda Roman and other NCDD members on a Catalyst Awards project centered around Living Room Conversations — and would like to see many of you involved.  Please read over this post and either comment here or on their Catalyst Awards page here at CivicEvolution to let Joan and Amanda know if and how you’d like to get involved, or to ask whatever questions you may have.

Dear NCDD Community:

Last year Amanda Katheryn Roman and I launched LivingRoomConversations.org, an open source project that encourages intimate, co-hosted, structured conversations for friends and friends-of-friends to converse about issues on which they have differing views.  Early adopters used the conversation format to talk about the role of government, immigration, money in politics,  energy and gay marriage. These conversations have all been successful.  In fact, many participants have been surprised by how rich the conversations became.

Participating in the Living Room Conversation brought me back my boyhood when my family sat around the dinner table debating the topics of the day from both liberal and conservative perspectives. The Conversation captured what I find to be missing from modern media and modern political narratives: a sense that what we share as Americans is far deeper and more important than what divides us, a sense that we still have a chance to reach across partisan divides to identify both the core of our disagreements and the kernel of realistic compromises.

– Charlie

We hope that NCDD members might embrace Living Room Conversations as a resource for conversations about all sorts of subjects. Over the past few weeks, we have all been thinking a great deal about conversations on the subject of school safety, how to improve our mental health system, the role of violence in our media, and how to reconcile the significant cultural conflict around the issue of guns.  We would be most grateful for your leadership and guidance developing and testing these conversations.  Mary Jacksteit of the Public Conversations Project has volunteered to develop a conversation on the topic of mental health.  Might you, an organization you know, or a faith community you are part of, consider hosting or customizing a conversation?  We’d gladly work with you on this.

LRC-logoIn addition to building relationships, most Living Room Conversations identify areas of 100% and 80% agreement.  We hope that collecting these agreements will create a capacity for change and leaders to act.  When LRC participants want to go deeper, we plan to develop mechanisms to connect them to facilitation processes that will allow them to work on the tougher issues.  These processes will benefit from the appreciation and respect they’ve developed for people whose views are different from theirs.  This is the other way we hope to work with the NCDD community.

As an open source project, it is our expectation that we will be constantly learning and adapting based upon the feedback we get from the community of people that find the conversations of value.  We can think of no better community to reach out to and partner with in this early stage than NCDD!

Please comment below to let us know how YOU may want to get involved.  This will help shape the Catalyst Awards proposal we’ll be submitting.

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Sandy Heierbacher
Sandy Heierbacher co-founded the National Coalition for Dialogue & Deliberation (NCDD) with Andy Fluke in 2002, with the 60 volunteers and 50 organizations who worked together to plan NCDD’s first national conference. She served as NCDD's Executive Director between 2002 and 2018. Click here for a list of articles and resources authored by Sandy.

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  1. I love this idea. Will work with you in any way possible to make it grow. Let me know if you would like to join forces. Patriotic-American-Citizen.us is my site for this purpose. If you are interested.

  2. Lori Britt says:

    While it was not officially part of this project in 2004 I wrote my masters’ thesis on a Living Room Conversation I designed and hosted on the role of religion in politics during a time when this was quite an issue. I purposefully invited friends and neighbors across a broad range of religious and spiritual beliefs and even atheists. It was incredibly rich and the participants commented that they would like to have more opportunities to talk with those they know on issues like this in an environment that promotes inquiry and understanding. Glad to see their is now a movement and a name for this approach! Kudos.

    Would be interested to understand more about the 80% and 100% agreements you mention. The discussions I created were not about seeking agreements, but understanding. Perhaps a first step.

    Happy to get involved in whatever way I can. I am in a new community now and would love to begin creating some of these spaces again.

    • Lori Britt says:

      To add to that, I have a member of my faith community who has mental health issues and lives in a group home. She raves about our community’s approach to mental health and I think a discussion of this nature would be welcomed by my faith community and those with mental health issues and those that spend their lives helping them. I think there is a lot to be gained by sharing these perspectives.

      • Joan Blades says:

        Hi Lori;

        I’d love to hear if your faith community encourages Living Room Conversations about mental health. I know of one set of conversations scheduled between family, patients and care providers later this month. I think there are many other conversations that would be helpful as well and would like to learn how to make them easily available. Let us know if we can help in any way!

  3. Mary Hunt says:

    You may want to consider partnering with Sandra Day OConnor’s project, icivics.org

  4. Ivi says:

    I am merely a social work student studying mediation and conflict resolution. Not sure if I could be of much help, but if I can please let me know. Thank you for all that you do!

    • Joan Blades says:

      Hi Ivy. Right now every conversation tried helps us better understand the opportunities and the challenges and gives the next folks hosting conversations an ever more solid foundation. So if you have a friend to co-host with on any subject that interests you that would be a great deal of help. Plus NCDD member participation is extra helpful as we have applied for a Catalyst Award!

  5. Would love to contribute my support re “When LRC participants want to go deeper, we plan to develop mechanisms to connect them to facilitation processes that will allow them to work on the tougher issues.”
    The Dynamic Facilitation manual is one open-source shareware for this that is freely available.

  6. Sorry I missed the boat on the Catalyst project deadline but I am very interested in Living Room Conversations. I attended the NCDD conference in October at which you presented and was very intrigued. I work at Hartford Public Library where increasingly are doing D&D work.

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