Hosting Conversations about Questions that Matter
Allow me to introduce myself. My name is Guy Nave. I am a professor of religion at Luther College. I recently learned about the work of The World Cafe from Clark Olson, President of the Institute for Civil Dialogue.
I am currently on sabbatical for the 2017-18 academic year, and I am working with website designers to create a website called "Clamoring for Change" (clamoringforchange.com).
While there are a number of voices within society clamoring for change, there is much disagreement regarding what kind of change is needed and what is needed in order to bring about change. One thing that is often common, however, among those clamoring for change is a belief that it is “others” who need to change.
Often when we refer to “change” we are referring to something that "others" need to do rather than something we ourselves need to do. I believe it is this belief that “others” are the ones who need to change that contributes to much of the polarization in society today.
Unfortunately, media (especially social media) often strengthens and affirms our belief that “others” are the ones who need to change. Most media sites function as "echo chambers" that filter the information we receive so that it supports our existing opinions and affirms and strengthens our belief that it is “others” who need to change.
Most media sites present single ideological perspectives (e.g. “liberal,” “conservative,” “moderate,” etc.) that resonate with the perspectives of the people visiting the sites. Clamoring for Change will seek to create a space that welcomes multiple ideological perspectives and that encourages engagement and interaction with and conversation across multiple perspectives.
I believe change is not primarily about persuading and convincing “one side” to see things the way that “another side” sees it. Instead, change is about all sides ending up with new perspectives that can only be arrived at through engagement with and understanding of others.
The site will be designed to expose participants to multiple ideological perspectives about important topics of the day (e.g. the place/role of Confederate monuments in American society). The hope is that engagement with the various perspectives presented will contribute to more informed and open forum discussions on broader topics.
In order for the website to be successful, we will need contributors representing multiple ideological perspectives to produce user content (eg. blogs, videos, podcasts, etc.) for the site. The more I learn about The World Cafe, the more I think there may be some excellent synergetic connections beween TWC and our Clamoring for Change project.
I guess I'm writing to introduce myself and my project with the hope that members of TWC community might be able to provide valuable insights, connections, and potential resources as I work on this project.
Because many (if not most) people do not know HOW to engage in open and meaningful conversations across ideological divides (especially within social media), I am considering a "soft launch" of the site before a "public" launch. My thought is that initially the site can be used by academics as a way of exposing students to multiple perspectives and generating conversations that challenge students to question their beliefs and assumptions about morality, government, and the nature of the "common good."
Once the site becomes populated with enough participants who can model for others what open and meaningful dialogue/conversation looks like, the site would be opened to the general public for broader participation.
While the creation of this site is quite an ambitious project, I strongly believe it has the potential of making a major contribution to the promotion of civil dialogue in a society that is growing increasingly polarized.
I hope TWC members will consider being part of this project and contributing to its development (both as people who contribute content and as people willing to use the site in their own work).
Thank you for taking the time to consider this request. Please feel free to contact me directly at my email address: email@example.com