Joseph McCormick: Building bridges between left-right grassroots


Richard Moore

Bcc: contributors

Transpartisan Examiner

Building bridges between left-right grassroots

How do you build trust, respect and communication between grassroots conservatives, liberals, greens, independents and people who don’t identify with any label?
A couple weeks ago we held a Transpartisan Community Building evening in Seattle (at the Mosaic Coffee House) to address this question.  About 18 people showed up and they really were from very different points of view.  There was a former speech writer for Bill Clinton, the chair of the WA Libertarian Party, a consultant to the national Tea Party Movement, a “whole-systems” activist, a former journalist for the Seattle times, a member of the Puget Sound Conservative Underground, a member of the Campaign for Liberty (Ron Paul grassroots), as well as a couple facilitators from the Compassionate Listening Project.
The idea was to create a fun, light atmosphere where we could all think creatively about activities that would bring all sides together doing something. The idea is to meet monthly just to get to know each other as people, apart from our labels and ideologies. 
We began sitting in a circle (like around a campfire).  We asked each person in one-minute or less to “check-in” with their name, an affiliation if they chose to offer one, and  a sentence or two about what brought them there.  When we finished, it was clear this was a unique gathering and there was clearly interest in what we might come up with together.
We counted off by fours to create four randomly mixed groups. Each group was instructed to brainstorm community building ideas for about ten minutes. Then one person in each group stayed and the other three went to other groups.  We did this three times.  What happened was people got to sit with and have creative conversations with at least twelve people over the course of the three “rounds” of dialogue.  They also got to hear, share, and cross pollinate ideas from a wide range of perspectives.
For the last thirty minutes, after the small group conversations, we reconvened into the larger circle and began making a list of what came up.  Some of the idea were:
* Potluck with presentations about issues

* Joke night

* Games night

* Video “show and tell” potluck

* Cleaning up a park

* Organize a Constitution dialogue/debate town hall around the question “how do we choose to govern ourselves?” (i.e. citizens recreating the original debates about whether America is a democracy or a republic)

* Identifying and mapping mega-issues and patterns

* Watching a “liberal” and a “conservative” news source and having a dialogue about which we trust

* Homelessness action dialogue

* “Barnraising” project (i.e. helping a community member with a major home project.)

* Silently witnessing a City Council meeting wearing “Transpartisan Alliance” T-shirts and red, blue, green, etc. hats

* A fruit/vegetable canning party called “Preserving our values.”

* A community gardening project
The evening ended with most feeling great about the fact that this politically diverse group could actually “do something” together and have fun at it.  As we did a “one word check out” there were many expressions of hope, optimism, and gratitude.
Within a few days after this meeting one of our members organized our first “Show and Tell Potluck” at a local library.  Our next one is March 24, 6-8:30pm at the Mosaic Coffee House.  Our next dialogue/debate (health care) is April 7 at Building 2100 (Room B) from 6 to 9pm.
Click here to join the Transpartisan Alliance.