Toxic polarization and partisanship have become top concerns of leaders and citizens in all sectors, yet the growth of new organizations practicing evidence-based “bridging” — bringing people together across divides — has received scant attention.
Congressmen Derek Kilmer (D-WA) and Andy Barr (R-KY), recipients of Convergence’s annual Bridging Leadership Award in 2020 and 2021, respectively, are out to change that. In February, they led a bipartisan coalition of policymakers to introduce the Building Civic Bridges Act, legislation to support organizations and community programs across the country that are spreading hope by bridging divides and offering opportunities and tools to build understanding and trust.
The bill establishes a new, non-partisan pilot program led by an Office of Civic Bridgebuilding within AmeriCorps, the federal agency that supports national and community service. The program would invest in bridge-building activities and build capacity to heal divides through four core areas of work:
Offering grant funding to support local bridge-building programs across the nation
Training AmeriCorps members in civic bridge-building skills and techniques
Supporting research on democracy and social cohesion
Activating a public conversation about the importance of bridge-building
David Eisner, CEO of Convergence, said, “Thank you to Representatives Kilmer and Barr, longstanding champions for bipartisan collaboration, for focusing Congress’ and the nation’s attention on the urgent need to lift and support the thousands of emerging bridging organizations and programs. Your vision, along with the work it supports, offers needed and hopeful pathways for Americans to come together across our differences and address our common problems.”
The US Chamber of Commerce’s recent episode of “The Competition Series” focused on how businesses can develop habits of democracy with genuine conversation. The event, which engaged more than 800 corporate leaders, featured a discussion with Convergence CEO David Eisner about the challenge polarization poses to companies and the opportunities for them to practice bridging and collaborative dialogue among their employees, customers, and constituents.
The Center for Inclusion and Belonging at the American Immigration Council has issued a Call for Bridging Communities Projects. They hope to crowdsource the best ideas and activities across the United States that bring people together to work toward the common good while building relationships that help bridge group differences. Apply by March 15th, 2022!
Participate in bridge-building with your friends and family by forming a book club! Civic Health Project compiled a compelling list of books that explore our country’s divisions and offer promising solutions.
“Right now divisiveness is one of the top three issues of public consciousness. We have an opportunity in the coming years to do something,” noted our CEO, David Eisner, in The Fulcrum piece on intraparty fighting and divisions.
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You can help Convergence bridge divides, find solutions for America’s cascading crises, and advance the bridge-building movement against toxic polarization. Invest today in solving problems through collaborative dialogue.