America in Crisis
The United States is facing a cultural crisis. Increasingly in America today, we don’t just disagree; we distrust, dislike, even despise those who see the world differently. Animosity for positions is becoming contempt for the people who hold them. Difference and disagreement are deeply personal as we rage against and recoil from those we see as enemies across widening divides—political, racial, religious, economic and more. Most of us see fewer things that bind Americans together today and have few or no friends from the other side. The rate of loneliness has more than doubled to nearly 50%, creating a public health epidemic. We’re withdrawing from conversations—thereby eroding relationships and understanding—which threatens the foundational fabric of America. 75% of Americans say this problem has reached a crisis level, and 56% believe it will only get worse. Our condition is rapidly deteriorating into what’s now being described as a soft civil war.
Beacons of Hope
But there is hope even in today's hyper-polarized and tribal society. We can turn the tide of rising rancor and deepening division by starting new conversations that bridge divides—move from 'us vs. them' to 'me and you.' Each person who listens first to understand tips the scales toward a stronger future for our nation, one built on relationships created by conversation.
In April of this year, thousands of Americans took part in the first National Week of Conversation (NWOC). More than 130 schools, libraries, faith communities, activist groups and nonprofits hosted conversations coast to coast in 32 states. These conversations were grounded in a pledge to listen first and seek understanding. The official #ListenFirst hashtag reached millions during NWOC and continues to be promoted by celebrities and journalists to millions more. NWOC events gained media attention across the nation including in the New York Times.
Majorities of NWOC participants walked away feeling more tolerant, understanding, appreciative and curious toward people with different perspectives. Two-thirds rated the value of their conversation as a 9 or 10 out of 10. More than three-quarters now feel better equipped and more likely to listen first to understand, as well as more likely to participate in conversations across divides. A survey of all Americans found 75% willing to set a good example by practicing conversations across divides, and 36%—amounting to more than 100 million people—want to see a national campaign promoting such conversations.
National Conversation Project
Building on the tremendous success of National Week of Conversation and the momentum it generated, we are now launching an ongoing National Conversation Project to mend the frayed fabric of America by bridging divides one conversation at a time. National Conversation Project (NCP)—a special open-source project of the Bridge Alliance Education Fund—will engage increasingly more partners and participants through synchronized monthly conversation opportunities (on or around the first Friday of each month) as well as semi-annual National Weeks of Conversation. National Conversation Project is built in the spirit of collaboration, innovation, and shared ownership. NCP will be powered and driven by a broad diversity of Americans in their communities. It’s designed as an open platform for all participants to adapt and shape to be their own. Participants and hosting partners will be welcome to use the conversation model and topic of their choice, or simply have a casual conversation, while NCP will offer tools and potential topics.
National Conversation Project seeks to mainstream conversations across divides in which we listen first to understand. NCP will invite people of all stripes to connect with one another, develop relationships, and revitalize America together. Imagine the local and national impact of people in every region of every state participating in these conversations both face-to-face and online to span geographic divides. NCP will execute a robust traditional and new media campaign to continually increase the number and diversity of voices in the conversations. Tangible impact will be measured and tracked by active engagement metrics, social listening, sentiment analysis, pre and post conversation surveys, and national surveys to quantify the mending of our frayed social fabric. NCP will also be positioned to respond to current events and crises with immediate conversation opportunities.
The potential impact of this broadly collaborative National Conversation Project—built on the proven success of National Week of Conversation—far exceeds anything a single organization could achieve on its own. NCP is the ideal vehicle to aggregate, align, and amplify the efforts of many across a rapidly growing field seeking to bridge divides. To launch and grow National Conversation Project, we need committed conversation hosting partners and financial support from individuals and organizations whom we’ll proudly recognize as NCP Charter Members.
Now is the time to seize momentum from NWOC and meet the urgent need of a nation in crisis. Please consider investing in this unprecedented collaborative mission to mend the frayed fabric of America by bridging divides with conversation. Nonprofits, businesses, and individuals may be Sustaining Members and/or Headline Sponsors of National Conversation Project. All who become Sustaining Members during the launch phase will also be recognized in perpetuity as NCP Charter Members.
National Conversation Project will be wholly funded by donations, which will be used to grow, coordinate, and promote monthly conversation opportunities as well as National Weeks of Conversation. Funds will enable a lean staff to recruit new hosting partners, generate awareness, coordinate events, capture transformation stories, and invite millions of Americans to join the conversations. Donations will also produce high profile convening events and be shared with hosting partners to enhance their monthly conversation programs. NCP will invest in a robust traditional and new media campaign to continually increase the number and diversity of voices in the conversations. With your support, this campaign encouraging and hosting conversations that bridge divides will be the largest in American history, featuring unprecedented breadth and depth of outreach. As stated above, impact will be measured and tracked by active engagement metrics, social listening, sentiment analysis, pre and post conversation surveys, and national surveys to quantify the mending of our frayed social fabric.
Donate & Contact
National Conversation Project seeks to mend the frayed fabric of America by bridging divides one conversation at a time. We promote monthly conversation opportunities as well as National Weeks of Conversation inviting people of all stripes to revitalize America together. NCP aggregates, aligns, and amplifies the efforts of more than 100 hosting partners to mainstream conversations in which we listen first to understand.
8. Listen First Project, Post-NWOC Survey