In late 2010, Joan Blades partnered with dialogue experts, Walt Roberts, Debilyn Molineaux, Amanda Kathryn Roman and Heather Tischbein, to create a structured, intimate conversation format that would empower everyday citizens to discuss important issues with friends of differing political affiliations and backgrounds. The theory was that if two friends with different points of view, each invited two friends to join a conversation, with full disclosure about the intent and structure of the conversation, they could create a safe space for a respectful and meaningful exchange of ideas, develop new relationships and perhaps find common ground. This was the Living Room Conversations pilot project.
By early 2011, the pilot revealed that the Living Room Conversations structure worked. Both the observed and independent conversations were successful. Participants found they were anxious at the outset but soon felt comfortable using the format. In fact, these early conversations fostered relationships that continue to this day.
Inspired by the success of the pilot, Amanda Kathryn Roman and Joan Blades formed a transpartisan political partnership, recruited an advisory board and launched the website to make the Living Room Conversations open-source format available to individuals and organizations around the country. Their hope was to empower participants to begin to reweave the fabric of our civil society by demonstrating that respectful conversation can enrich our lives and enable us to create better solutions to the challenges we face together.
Early participants had conversations about the role of government, money in politics, immigration, gay marriage and more. In 2013, our first high profile conversation, cohosted by Joan Blades and Mark Meckler (Tea Party Patriots), discussed crony capitalism and identified the need for criminal justice reform as an area of 100% agreement. common ground This led to further discussion and impactful collaborative action.
Living Room Conversations is constantly evolving. We have a growing list of champions who speak publicly about Living Room Conversations or use the format in their work, as well as a growing number of partners who are using our open-source format in large and small ways. We look forward to developing and sharing materials for more issue areas, and creating a cycle of online-to-offline community building as we learn from and support each other in becoming a more respectful, civil society.