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Civic Ed
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Race and Ethnicity - Living Room Conversations

Time to boost conversations that create connections

Blades is co-founder of Living Room Conversations, which organizes gatherings designed to increase understanding and reveal common ground.

Thought experiment: What if all the leaders in Washington decided tomorrow that climate change was the No. 1 issue to address? Evidence suggests this would not be as helpful as many people think. Consider health care, a No. 1 issue for decades. How does the U.S. health care system stack up? It is the most expensive in the world per capita and it isn't even in the top 10 in terms of outcomes. The fact is, importance isn't the determining variable for achieving success. We need to be able to work together.

Weaving the fabric of our democracy locally and nationally is a massive challenge. The people behind Living Room Conversations are meeting that challenge by offering an open-source project that can be used by mobile users at the beach as easily as in a living room or library.

Sometimes we worry that our name may confuse people. Living Room Conversations aren't limited by location, geography or time zone. They are happening every day in churches, libraries, schools, book stores, city community centers and virtual conference spaces. These six-person, structured conversations are designed to be self-directed, easily accessible, and welcoming to a broad array of perspectives. The structure includes conversation agreements that support comfort and safety.

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The Civvys

Beth Broadway of the El-Hindi Center for Dialogue at InterFaith Works accepts one of two local prizes given out at the 2018 Civvys awards presentation.

Nominations open for civic collaboration awards

Nominations are open until July 12 for the third annual American Civic Collaboration Awards, known as the Civvys.

The awards, established by the Bridge Alliance and Big Tent Nation in 2017, honor civic collaboration efforts that "strengthen communities and empower citizens" while bridging ideological divisions, partisan politics, narrow parochial interests and other gridlock-producing barriers.

Past winners have included a student-run public interest research group in North Carolina, a digital civics education effort in Colorado and a middle-school shadow city council in Alabama.

Awards will be given for national, local and youth projects. Entries will be judged on the collaborative practices involved, the impact of the project and its scalability – whether the effort can be replicated for greater impact. More information and a short nomination form can be found at www.civvys.org.

The awards will be presented at the National Conference on Citizenship in October.

Disclosure: The Bridge Alliance Education Fund is a funder of The Fulcrum.

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ferrantraite/E+ via Getty Images

Technicians of democracy: Let's get to work.

Molineaux is the co-founder and executive director of Bridge Alliance, a coalition of more than 90 civic reform groups. (Disclosure: The Bridge Alliance Education Fund is a funder of The Fulcrum.)

Imagine the United States as a car and us – the inhabitants of the country – as a 330-million-member family trying to plan a road trip. We each have a destination in mind (like lower taxes, improved health care, criminal justice reform, addressing climate change) and we've planned the route (path to victory), the activities (organizing), and the site-seeing (small accomplishments along the way). As we set off, we argue and bicker and fight to get the car moving down our chosen path. Then BANG, the car breaks down, emitting a puff of smoke as a wheel falls off.

Now what?

Our country is a broken-down car on the side of the road. Some people may stop and offer help. But unless a qualified technician comes by with the proper tools, we're stuck. And so is our country. Nobody is going anywhere.

Who are the technicians of our democratic republic? The people who know the system inside and out – where the breakdowns are likely to occur and what parts to replace? I would posit that it is those of us in the democratic reform movement. While many of our 330 million family members are on the side of the road bemoaning the lack of progress on their issue of choice, we need to pay attention to the vehicle itself. That is where the reform movement comes in. We are equipped to look at the vehicle as a whole, and that is what will get us where we want to go the fastest.

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Bridge Alliance

The Bridge Alliance is a coalition of over 90 organizations dedicated to U.S. revitalization. With each organization focusing on a different sector of the movement, our members represent a combined three million supporters in the burgeoning field of civic reform and civil discourse. The Bridge Alliance acts as a hub of information and connectivity for over 90 civic action organizations. We provide the infrastructure for our members to expand individually, collaborate on shared goals, and inform others that are invested in democracy revitalization. Our member organizations are involved in three broad categories: Civic Engagement; Governance and Policy making; Campaigns and the Election Process.

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