National Conversation Project
America in Crisis
The United States is facing a crisis. Even with disparate views on the origins of the problem, there is broad agreement that something is terribly wrong. Increasingly in America today, we don’t just disagree; we distrust, dislike, even despise those who see the world differently. Animosity for positions is becoming disdain for the people who hold them. Difference and disagreement are deeply personal as we rage against and recoil from those we see as enemies across widening divides—political, racial, religious, economic and more. 75% of Americans say this problem has reached a crisis level and 56% believe it will only get worse.
We now fear those with whom we disagree, viewing them as threats to the nation, and most of us have few or no friends from the opposing side. Our attitudes become more extreme after speaking with like-minded others, without us realizing it. Consequently, we’re viewing the other side more and more coldly. The balkanization of information sources into echo chambers as well as heightened anger on social media have exacerbated the problem. A majority see fewer things that bind Americans together today than in the past, and we’re withdrawing from conversations. The rate of loneliness has more than doubled to nearly 50%, creating a public health epidemic. This decline of relationships and understanding threatens the foundation and fabric of America. We cannot go on like this.
Beacons of Hope
But we maintain hope that even in today's hyper-polarized and tribal society, we can turn the tide of rising rancor and deepening division by starting new conversations that bridge divides—move from 'us vs. them' to 'me and you.' Each person who listens first to understand tips the scales toward a stronger future for our nation, one built on relationships created by conversation.
In April of this year, thousands of Americans took part in the first National Week of Conversation (NWOC). More than 130 schools, libraries, faith communities, activist groups and nonprofits hosted conversations coast to coast in 32 states. These conversations were grounded in a pledge to listen first to understand and consider another's views before sharing their own. The official #ListenFirst hashtag reached hundreds of thousands during NWOC and is being promoted by celebrities and journalists to millions of followers.
Two-thirds of NWOC participants rated the value of their conversation as a 9 or 10 out of 10. Majorities walked away feeling more tolerant, understanding, appreciative and curious toward people with different perspective. More than three-quarters now feel both better equipped and more likely to listen first to understand as well as more likely to participate in conversations across divides. Among all Americans, 75% say they’re willing to set a good example by practicing civil conversations, and 36%—more than 100 million people—want to see a national campaign promoting such conversations.
National Conversation Project
Building on the tremendous success of National Week of Conversation and the momentum it generated, we are now working to launch an ongoing National Conversation Project to mend the frayed fabric of America by bridging divides one conversation at a time. National Conversation Project (NCP)—a special project of the Bridge Alliance Education Fund— will engage increasingly more partners and participants through synchronized monthly conversation opportunities as well as semi-annual National Weeks of Conversation. National Conversation Project seeks to mainstream conversations across divides. It aims to create a tidal wave which—in addition to mending our frayed social fabric—will elevate all partnering organizations. The potential impact of a broadly collaborative National Conversation Project—built on the proven success of NWOC—far exceeds anything a single organization could imagine on its own.
Now is the time to seize momentum from NWOC and meet the desperate need of a nation in crisis! To launch National Conversation Project, we need financial support from individuals and organizations whom we’ll proudly recognize as NCP Charter Members in perpetuity. If you’re willing to invest in this unprecedented collaborative opportunity, please do so using the button below or contact NCP Director Pearce Godwin at Pearce@ListenFirstProject.org. Let’s revitalize America together!
11. Listen First Project, Post-NWOC Survey