Introduction: Today it is our privilege to feature a post by Doug Linkhart, President of the National Civic League about All-America Conversations.
Don’t you think it’s time we had a talk?
All the national media coverage about divisiveness and distrust can make it seem like we aren’t able to work together anymore. Yet, at the local level, communities continue to lead the way and demonstrate that we are still able to get things done together! To encourage this trend, the National Civic League (NCL) is challenging communities to hold All-America Conversations as a way to explore local divides and tensions and identify specific actions to bridge those divides.
At a time when so many see their fellow neighbors as enemies rather than allies, All-America Conversations are a chance to bridge divides and provide people the opportunity to “focus on solving problems” rather than fostering still further division and mistrust. To support communities in engaging diverse residents across dividing lines to create stronger, more equitable communities, the National Civic League has produced All-America Conversations Toolkit, a free resource that includes everything a community needs to hold a productive and meaningful conversations.
Across the country, many local communities are already creating opportunities for residents to engage with one another and find common ground. Whether these divisions are racial, religious and ethnic, socioeconomic or of another type, the strongest local communities will be those that face these tensions, engage residents and take actions to work together.
In August of 2015, Decatur, Georgia built upon its long tradition of community engagement by bringing residents together to talk about such thorny and difficult issues as community policing, gentrification, diverse and affordable housing, and what it would take to be an equitable and inclusive city. These conversations led to action by the city, which has since started tracking police stops to determine whether there are racial disparities.
Decatur’s conversations also illuminated actions that residents believed they could take to make a difference on local concerns. From these engagement efforts, both the city and its residents recognized and began to play more focused roles in creating a more equitable and inclusive Decatur.
In his book, “Trust Building,” Rob Corcoran writes about Richmond, Virginia’s move from being the “Capital of the Confederacy” to a home of meaningful and enduring racial dialogues and the resulting changes. He writes that “by treating people as potential allies rather than enemies, we can focus on solving problems instead of continuing to glare at each other from self-righteous and isolated positions. The key to healing is in provoking and sustaining honest conversations among citizens.”
Join us in helping to heal the nation, one community at a time.
The All-America Conversations Toolkit
To download the free All-America Conversations Toolkit click on the box below. The National Civic League also offers live calls to answer specific questions and help with strategies. February's call is Monday 2/27 at 1 PM Pacific.
About Doug: Doug Linkhart is President of the National Civic League. He served in elected office for 18 years, including eight years as a Denver City Councilman and ten years as a Colorado State Legislator. Doug also managed a city agency for four years and founded a nonprofit organization to serve neighborhood associations and their residents, which he directed for ten years.
All-America Conversation image courtesy of the National Civic League.