Common Ground Single Issue Workshops

What is the Braver Angels Common Ground Single Issue Workshop?

The Braver Angels Common Ground Workshop brings together equal numbers Conservatives and Liberals – Reds and Blues (4-8 of each) – for a deep dive into a problem, such as addressing climate change, electoral reform or abortion. Together participants talk about their connection to the issue and their opinion on solutions. By the end of the 3-hour online event they have come up with jointly and unanimously held Points of Agreements on values, concerns and policies. (A longer on-land version is also an option, post-pandemic.)

The team for the workshop includes 2 trained moderators, potentially 2 additional Small-group Facilitators, and 3 Zoom Event Managers who help keep the process moving and make sure all can participate comfortably and be respected in their differences.

The Common Ground workshop is an out-growth of Braver Angels signature Red-Blue workshop and allows participants to go deeper into a single issue. Points of Agreement can be fleshed out at future group meetings, and when possible lead to joint Red-Blue actions such as op-eds, joint speaking and meetings with legislators.
The workshop can include participants who have experienced other Braver Angels workshops, as well as newcomers. Every workshop will ideally have a good number of experienced participants. Observers are also welcome, and do not need to identify their color, or be balanced in numbers. 

One optional way to prepare participants for the workshop can be for a Red-Blue pair of organizers to approve fact sheets on the issue that come from sources acceptable to both sides. These materials will not be discussed explicitly in the workshop, but can provide background information to participants as they prepare for the discussion.

Goals of the Workshop

  • To delve into a single issue where citizens differ, and learn how each other sees the problem
  • To delineate areas of common ground and points of agreement
  • To learn something that might be helpful to others in our community and the nation

The Process

After a brief introduction and discussion of ground rules, attendees of Red/Blue workshops participate in four exercises:

  1. Small Red-Blue Groups on how the participants connect personally to the issue — Participants have an opportunity to express what is at the heart of the matter for them.  Storytelling is encouraged.
  2. Red-Blue Dyad Pairs explore where each stand on policies to address the issue – Participants share how what solutions they support. Their partner is encouraged to ask a question of curiosity to further understand how they are thinking about the problem. 
  3. Common Ground Exercise – Separate groups of Reds and Blues meet to come up with a list of Values, Concerns and Policies on the issue, that they believe they and the other side could support.  Upon returning to the full group, the lists are shared.  Any item that does not receive unanimous support from everyone in the workshop, is eliminated. 
  4. Further Exploration of Points of Agreement – In a mixed Red-Blue group, participants have a chance to further explore points that did not receive support.  Some new points are then returned to the group for further testing of consensus.  The combined list of values, concerns and policies that are unanimously accepted become the Points of Agreement
  5. Action Steps – Participants briefly discuss how they might want to continue to work together to discuss how to address the issue, and to promote the Points of Agreement.
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