At a time of heightened political dysfunction and polarization, a new platform aims to help everyday Americans find common ground and work toward solutions.
Officially launched on Wednesday, Citizen Connect provides opportunities for people to engage with the issues they care about and coalesce around ideas for strengthening democracy. Citizen Connect's website features events from more than 400 organizations across the political spectrum, as well as information on how people can get involved with these groups.
By making it easier for people to get involved, Citizen Connect co-founders Brian Clancy and Morris Effron hope to scale up the movement to bridge the country's divides.
"We think a part of civic life should be leaning into finding common ground and working across differences because for a lot of our problems we have just kicked the can down the road," Clancy said. "And the only way to solve those [problems] is to come together."
Users can search for events or organizations by topics, such as elections, faith and religion, race or immigration, and by work areas, like empowering young people, fighting corruption, voter information or healthy debate. The site also offers a newsletter for staying informed about upcoming events.
With hundreds of organizations already on the site, Citizen Connect plans to grow its coalition even further, to "represent the civic renewal movement as broadly as possible," Effron said. The website is nonpartisan, and the participating organizations are run by Republicans, Democrats and independents alike. (Citizen Connect is an initiative of the Bridge Alliance Education Fund, which also funds and operates The Fulcrum.)
"We're not taking a side. We're not promoting any agenda," Effron said. "We're just trying to, in essence, activate more American citizens, give more American citizens an easy way to find what in the political arena interests them and how they can act on it."
One way Citizen Connect wants to make it easier for people to engage is by integrating its event listing on media sites, such as The Fulcrum and AllSides. For instance, after reading an article about partisan gerrymandering, there would be a Citizen Connect widget providing information about how a person could get more involved in the issue.
"You read an article, and you're like, 'Gosh, I'd like to do something about this.' And then you have to walk the dog or buy food or whatever, and it's gone," Clancy said. "We want within a second, one click away, for someone to find something relevant on that topic — and again not selling an answer, but saying, 'Hey, come in, let's talk. We value your opinion. We can find common ground together.'"
One of the biggest challenges facing the nation today is a political climate that fuels division, anger and fear, Clancy said. Americans also feel frustrated by a perceived inability to make a difference, Effron added. They both hope Citizen Connect can be part of the solution.
"At the end of the day this is the people's democracy and we have final authority over what needs to, and can, happen. But we have to take action in order to exercise that power," Effron said. "That's really the whole mission of Citizen Connect, is to let people know that there is a way we can do this, but we have to take action, and we have to take action together."
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