Our mission is to promote constructive dialogue across political and ideological divides by creating and fostering forums for conversation.
Why We Believe What We Believe
From Huffington Post to Infowars to Fox News to the echo-chamber programming of Facebook, we are working against strong forces of division. Many of us are living many miles away (literally and digitally) from those who see the world differently than we do, yet we share the same home and are affected by the same policies. We are losing connections that are important for broadening our perspectives and fostering reciprocity. There is a growing feeling of contempt that is eating away at possibilities for better communication.
Many people are having trouble seeing the humanity behind the headlines.
This all impacts our collective well-being and carries potentially dangerous ramifications. We believe there are ways to move beyond this, and there are steps we can take to bridge these divides. We believe there is common ground in this country that doesn't currently have a forum to flourish and that much of the division can be countered with conversation and attention.
We have to be the architects of our own future.
The Roots of Bridging Our Divide
Over the last several years I've spent many hours driving through the rural towns near the national forest where I worked. Looking at the houses there and the land stretching in all directions, I think of the warm-hearted people who live there, and how those of us in the city, just over the horizon, are becoming more and more separated from them.
At the heart of this divide are large generalizations, misunderstandings, and the fact that the most extreme voices in our respective ideologies are promoting disdain and determining our collective relationship.
I see a similar dynamic play out among those with similar perspectives living in closer proximity, as the more vitriolic voices and extreme statements create and expand divisions.
In the time I've spent working on forest collaboratives (meeting regularly with diametrically opposed stakeholders to find common ground on contentious timber issues), I've learned about many of the misconceptions we all have about each other, about the difficult hurdles we face in finding common ground, and about the shared experiences and values we can all understand but which can be difficult to see at first glance. Our country is currently reeling from new levels of divisiveness and collective skepticism, and I think there is a lot we can do to mend these divisions.
Right now, we are working to get Bridging Our Divide out into different parts of the country, and we are looking for help with everything from community organizers to web gurus. So, send us a note!
Below are links to some great podcasts that we thought you might find interesting. Some of these have offered great ideas or been inspirations for our work with Bridging Our Divide. Researchers, speakers, and interested citizens around this country are working to uncover the not-so-obvious patterns of our world, and some of their work highlights answers to many of the social quagmires that confront our society right now. That's not to say it's easy, but there are paths being laid for us to do our work to try to solve some of the divisions.
--An interview with Van Jones at the New York Public Library focusing on the need to listen and understand the perspectives of others.
--Two episodes of the You Are Not So Smart podcast:
1. The Backfire Effect often results when communicating with people different from ourselves.
2. Deep Canvassing is a story about how meeting those you thought you disliked can often change your mind.
--Week 6 of the Indivisible podcast highlights the great work of Better Angels
--An engaging Intelligence Squared UK interview with Jonathan Haidt about the rise of populism
--An interview with David Pizzaro and Tamler Sommers on the Waking Up Podcast about persuasion and moral certainty. And, another Waking Up podcast about the challenges and immense value of difficult conversations.
--All of the Intelligence Squared U.S. Debates have a lot to teach us about civil discourse and understanding complex issues with depth and nuance.