Civity Has Launched!
Updated: May 22, 2019
The cutting-edge Civity initiative helps people work better together to solve community problems, and many prominent leaders and thinkers are taking notice.
Founders Malka Kopell and Palma Strand believe “building and strengthening relationships to reach across social, political and organizational divides” is the only way “to tackle complex civic challenges.”
At a recent event at Stanford University celebrating the completion of the Civity Conversations pilot project, Lara Ortiz-Luis with San Francisco-based “start-up accelerator” Matter said Civity forced her to face her discomfort and reach out to someone on the opposite side of the Bay Area housing issue.
“One great thing about Civity is that it gives you a structure to have the conversation,” she said. “The point of the conversation is the conversation.”
The roadmap offered by Civity helped Lara and her Civity Conversation counterpart start a rich conversation and move closer to workable ideas.
Kopell said that is exactly the idea. “Conversation is a building block toward more robust networks and communities. By helping people see each other as people and not as ‘the other,’ we’re not only solving civic issues, we’re getting at the underlying problem. "
Strand added, “We know that civic networks with bridging relationships between people in various social groups help communities pull together. 'Civity' names the community quality of being connected across differences, which makes communities stronger and more resilient.”
Kip Harkness, Director of Technology Engagement at PayPal, reaffirmed the value of Civity awareness: “Civity gave me permission,” he said, “to pay attention to relationships in my work, which has led to tangible positive outcomes.”
John Esterle, Co-Executive Director of The Whitman Institute, said at the Stanford event that funders looking for outcomes may overlook that conversation should be an outcome. “What sets Civity apart from other engagement efforts are the one-on-one conversations,” said Esterle. He thinks that’s intriguing.
Civity is “making the case that relationship-building should be seen as a measure of impact,” he added. “If that’s not happening, we’re not going to make the progress we want to.”
He and other speakers at the event acknowledged that starting conversations with people who are different can be scary and daunting. “When we go outside of our boxes, it’s awkward and uncomfortable. That’s why naming and structure matter,” said Esterle. “We are living in new times, and new times call for new ways of thinking and doing. That’s what Civity is.”