• Malka Kopell

Civity Work: Grounded in Partnerships

Updated: May 22, 2019

Over the past few months we have conducted Civity workshops with people at some wonderful organizations! In these workshops, we provide simple and focused strategies for connecting with one another, sharing stories, and listening to each other’s stories. Civity storytelling and storylistening support understanding and celebration of difference – as well as discovery of commonality.

By naming Civity, celebrating engagement across difference as a positive cultural value, we give people the power to make this change themselves, connecting with others who are different from them in a way that ripples out and affects the greater societal structure.

Our work “scales” best when we partner with organizations who are out there in communities trying to bring people together. By supporting these partners with Civity workshops, we can help organizations deepen their work and make it more effective.

Here are a few stories from the field:

  • Unity in the Community is a diverse group of community leaders committed to erasing racism and bigotry in San Leandro, California. After a Civity workshop that Malka delivered at a monthly board and members’ meeting, Surlene Grant, former San Leandro City Council member and one of Unity’s founders, shared a comment from one of the participants: “today’s workshop created a bond with the group .... Everyone has been supportive but this created a bond that we didn’t have.”

  • Islamic Networks Group (ING) is a Silicon-Valley-based non-profit organization with affiliates around the country pursuing peace and countering all forms of bigotry through education and interfaith engagement. Malka recently did a Civity workshop for ING’s staff. Kate Chance, coordinator of ING’s Know Your Neighbor Summer Campaign (more on that below), says, “The training by Civity was eye opening for us, helping us learn how to effectively engage in dialogue across conflicts and even giving our staff the space to learn and grown in our relationships with one another. I think all individuals and organizations can benefit from taking the time to learn how to cultivate and build empathy across differences, especially given the current challenging political climate. We look forward to finding more ways to work alongside Civity and implement this training and practice into our daily lives.” Civity is proud to be part of Know Your Neighbor (KYN), which launched on June 8, with more than 70 partners from around the country. Know Your Neighbor is offering tips, tools, and guides to promote and support simple actions that people can take to get to know and understand others. Check it out!

  • Blue Heart is a bold and innovative organization of millennials elevating the work of grassroots organizations and artists on the frontlines of movement-building in communities across the country. We had the opportunity to do a Civity workshop, “Putting Differences on the Table”, at one of their member events. According to Blue Heart co-founder Lindley Mease, "Civity provided an insightful workshop on how to move from comfort to curiosity, from always seeking our sameness to growing through our differences. We are grateful to Civity for providing an opportunity to our members to think differently about how they empathize with others and lean into new relationship."

  • Since 2004, Challenging Racism (CR) has been holding yearlong conversations in Arlington, Virginia that get people talking and sharing stories about race. Last summer and again this year, Palma brought Civity to CR's "train-the-trainers" workshop. Said Marty Swaim, CR’s co-founder, “Challenging Racism brings people into conversations where they both tell their own stories and hear other people’s stories. Personal connections and knowledge lead to deeper encounters, normalize talking about race, and ground a broader understanding of race. We incorporated Civity into our train-the-trainers workshop because Civity gives people tools to extend the work they start here by building relationships in the larger community.”

This spring we also designed and carried out our first remote Civity “train the trainers” workshop! The workshop, via Zoom, enabled Palma and Malka to work long-distance with dialogue professionals from University of Utah’s Environmental Dispute Resolution Program, in one of the program's semi-annual Dialogues on Collaboration. Their June Dialogue, titled “Fostering Productive Dialogue in Divided Times,” featured Civity Conversations with about 70 people from the greater Salt Lake City area, who, according to. Michele Straube, Director of the Program, experienced some “wonderful “aha” moments."

We are so honored to be able to support these organizations in their wonderful work and spread Civity!

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