National Week of Conversation Debuts This Week

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The National Week of Conversation events aim to increase civic engagement and improve on voter participation. Photo Credit: Morguefile

Suzanne Potter
California News Service

SANTA MONICA, Calif. – This week is the first-ever “National Week of Conversation” – a series of events promoted by local groups that work to bridge the partisan divide – in California and across the nation.

The idea is to get people talking about the issues, focusing on civil dialogue, where they listen respectfully and hopefully find common ground. Studies show that hyperpartisanship in the U.S. is as high these days as it was right after the Civil War. And Kamy Akhavan, CEO of a group called ProCon.org, said these ideological battle lines are corrosive to our democracy.

“We need to be able to deliberate, discuss, debate issues without being disagreeable, and having things break down, to name calling, people retreating into their echo chambers and behind their filter bubbles,” Akhavan said. “That’s not how our system of government was designed to work. And yet increasingly that seems to be what’s happening.”

To take part, visit NationalWeekofConversation.org and sign up to attend one of the public forums, join an online dialogue or be matched up with someone in your neighborhood whose perspective might broaden your own. Some of the topics to be discussed include race relations, gun control, clean elections, medical marijuana, and power imbalances in relationships.

Sandy Heierbacher, director of the National Coalition for Dialogue and Deliberation, said the groups are working hard to encourage people of all backgrounds to come to the table.

“For race dialogues, oftentimes you have a white facilitator and a facilitator of color and that helps people that might be less drawn to dialogue or less trusting of it, helps them to feel like, ‘OK, someone’s going to be looking out for me in this space, so I might be more comfortable actually attending,'” Heierbacher said.

Demographic studies show that Americans are increasingly “self-sorting” – into like-minded communities, by moving to neighborhoods with very little diversity, and by choosing to follow partisan news and social media groups.

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