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.
Building on the tremendous success of the first National Week of Conversation and the momentum it generated, we've launched an ongoing National Conversation Project to mend the frayed fabric of America by bridging divides one conversation at a time. National Conversation Project—an overarching collaborative platform powered by 175+ organizations—is designed to reach farther and impact greater than any one organization by aggregating, aligning, and amplifying the many conversation efforts already underway while welcoming more Americans into conversations. National Conversation Project promotes National Weeks of Conversation, #ListenFirst Fridays, and any conversation inviting people to revitalize America together.