June 17, 2019

Stories matter. Stories do work – they guide what we do. If our stories discount or degrade Others, then our actions exploit and marginalize. If our stories acknowledge the human dignity of Others, then we draw our community lines inclusively so They become part of Us. The race story in the United States, a story of the first kind, is a story with which we are all too familiar. The civity story, a story of the second kind, beckons in a different direction. Two recent explorations of the race sto...

May 21, 2019

My Civity co-founder Malka Kopell and I had the opportunity last week to be part of the #WeaveThePeople gathering in Washington, DC. We joined with people who are also “healing America’s social fragmentation by weaving deep connections across difference in their communities.”

New York Times columnist David Brooks brings a compelling voice to the conversation about how Americans should be with each other. He has been bearing witness to the pain of feeling isolated and disconnected, of feeling forgotten and left behind. He has been speaking and writing about dignity, decency, and truthfulness.

In talking to people around the country, Brooks has found that while there is an epidemic of social fragmentation, there is also a multitude of individuals who have pitched in and...

Larry Kramer, president of the Hewlett Foundation, recently asserted the value of “listening with empathy” in the nation’s current political and social climate of “polarization” and “tribalism.” It is essential, he says, for us to be able to “debate and reason with those with whom we disagree.”

Kramer also asserts that listening to others, even when we believe with all our hearts that they are wrong, calls for self-conscious effort and discipline, and that this kind of listening is essential if w...

December 10, 2018

The word “civity” is not new. The Oxford English Dictionary lists “civity” as an archaic, no-longer-used word for “city.”

“Civity” calls us back to the essence of “city,” which originally meant the people.

The people of a city.

Civity comes from the Latin civis, meaning citizen, and civitas, meaning the body of citizens. Other English words in the civis-civitas family that we hear frequently today include citizen, citizenship, city, civic, civil, and civility. Surely somewhere in this assortment th...

December 10, 2018

We asked Louisville community leaders to share examples of spaces in the Louisville community where they see Civity connections happening or potential for them to happen.

Over the past year, we have been steadily strengthening the foundations for Civity connection in Louisville, Kentucky—the 29th most-populous city in the U.S. and one of the pilot communities in our Seeding Civity initiative. Throughout this journey, we have had the great good fortune to work closely with Tom Williams, co-host of...

December 10, 2018

This summer, Civity worked closely with Derek Wolfgram and Jenny Barnes from the Redwood City Public Library to help bring to life the city’s first-ever Human Library event.

The Human Library project—launched 18 years ago in Denmark—challenges stereotypes and prejudices through one-on-one conversations. In a Human Library, the “Books” are people with “Titles” such as “Muslim,” “Veteran,” “Formerly Homeless,” or “Transgender.” Members of the community can “check out” these "Books" and hear their s...

December 9, 2018

“You may not find reciprocity as you attempt to have conversations” across difference, said Kim Roth Howe, founding principal of Co-Creative Labs and TED Talk speaker of Searching for Purple in a Red and Blue Time. “Even if you do everything exactly right, and you come with the most open heart and most gracious perspective…, you still may not find any kind of mutuality. And, it's still worth it.”

Howe lives in Nebraska, and like many others across the country, she found herself concerned about de...

June 14, 2018

At a time when “our divided country” is all the buzz at cocktail parties (well, at least the cocktail parties I’m going to!), Civity is standing up for connection, compassion, and conversation. And Civity is not alone. Other organizations with aligned missions – the Village Square, One America Movement, Everyday Democracy, Islamic Networks Group, Living Room Conversations, the Bridge Alliance, and many more – are helping to create spaces for people who are different to connect.

The same thing is...

June 14, 2018

"Relationships carry action verbs.
Love. Marry. Rule. Fight. Correspond. Mix."

Dorothee Kocks*

Malka and I arrived at Civity by different paths.

By the time we met, Malka had spent decades convening and facilitating a wide range of civic engagement processes in communities all over California, and she had noticed that the relationships between the people involved were central to that work. When the relationships were good, the work was good: Relationships of trust and respect spurred processes forw...

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