• Malka Kopell

Civity Update: Growing the Civity Counter-Story

Updated: May 22, 2019

I’m writing at my desk in San Francisco, where terrible fires have been burning just north of me over the last few weeks. I have been glued to the radio, TV and Internet, trying to discover news of friends and colleagues and hearing terrible stories of death and loss of homes.

I have also been hearing other news: stories of incredible heroism by first responders and others; of neighbors helping neighbors; of strangers knocking on doors to get them out of the fires’ way.

I listen to these stories and I think, THIS is who we are.

After all, we are a social species. Ever since we formed our first tribes, we have lived by connecting with others. We connect in our neighborhoods, on the soccer field, at our clubhouses, in the grocery store. Over coffee, over drinks, over dinner.

We like connecting with the people who are near and dear to us. And we also like connecting with people who bring something new to our lives. It is those connections – those “not like-minded and not like-situated” that create the “Power of Civity” Palma describes in her piece.

One of the things I like best about my work with Civity is that I get to see these connection stories. In every conversation I have, every workshop I teach, every event I facilitate, I see people connecting with people they hadn’t connected with before, in ways they hadn’t connected before.

And I get to work with others who are living out connection stories. Here are some examples (and for more – check out our FB page!):

  • Andy Hanauer is leading the One America Movement to counter divisiveness and “build human relationships that can cut through the isolated “bubbles” that increasingly define our country.” In May I was with Andy in Cherry Hill, NJ, where 100 people –– black, white, brown, Hindu, Sikh, Muslim, Jewish, Christian – came together to fill more than 500 backpacks full of school supplies for kids living below the poverty line in Camden County. I helped frame the conversations that happened at the dinner afterward, and got opportunity to see first-hand the wonderful work One America is doing to connect across difference. For more information about One America, listen to Gina Baleria’s interview with Andy on our This Is Civity radio podcast, or read her recent blog post about the interview.

  • Marc Erlbaum founded The Common Party to “bring our country back together through the celebration of our overwhelming commonality … predicated on our common good, common goals, common decency, and common courtesy.” Palma and I (now proud Common Party “Commoners”) urge you to check out the uplifting “Comtent” and “Commontary” on the Common Party website.

  • Kate Chance and the other good people at the Islamic Networks Group resurrected the Know Your Neighbor campaign, a national grassroots program to “promote understanding and mutual respect among Americans of diverse religious and ethical traditions,” originally launched at the White House in December, 2015 to work on policy concerning civil rights. Under ING, Know Your Neighbor has grown from 20 to nearly 100 national and regional partners (including Civity), promoting dialogue across difference across the country. Sign up to be informed, and listen to our interview with Kate and Ameena Jindal on our radio podcast.

Last month Palma and I sent out a call to action to all of you to help us tell the Civity story. Andy, Marc, Kate, Ameena and many, many others are helping us do that.

Over the next year, we will be highlighting these Civity stories that make visible the connections that are all too often invisible. We plan to capture these stories in interviews and share them in written and video form. Also in the works is a national “Seeding Civity in Community” project, working with partners in communities around the country to initiate ongoing Civity conversations, with each community lifting up its own community Civity story that will feed into the larger national counter-narrative.

Stay tuned!

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