Author Archives: Debilyn

by Joan Blades Critics of dialogue often ask, "what's the point of talking?  It's not like it's going to change anything, right?" In January of 2013, a Living Room Conversation took place between Joan Blades, co-founder of MoveOn and Mark Meckler co-founder of Tea Party Patriots.  After being surprised to discover how much they all agreed about criminal justice reform, Joan and Living Room Conversations partners decided to make this topic a priority in future efforts.    Front page coverage Read More...

Everyone in the room knew each other—our small university town of Bolivar, Missouri ensures a great deal of connectedness—and the conversation we were having was civil and dignified. Our civility was in stark contrast to the civility of the thing/online commentary we had gathered to discuss. Together we dissected and examined the increasing amount of vitriol and hate speech on the internet, which continues to be one of the many growing pains of the world wide web. Read More...

This fall, Harvard Negotiators was excited to partner with Living Room Conversations to offer structured, facilitated dialogue sessions on the Harvard Law School campus. Harvard Negotiators is a volunteer student organization based at Harvard Law School that aims to provide opportunities for students to explore the theory and skills of negotiation, mediation, and conflict resolution. Thanks to seven enthusiastic first-year students, who hosted the conversations, and a project manager, third-year Read More...

Eating Hummus with 'the Enemy': Defrosting the Cultural Divide Tracy Hollister & Jacob Hess As the plane descended above the lights of Salt Lake City, I thought, "what are these Mormons going to be like? How open would they be to me, as a gay person? What was I getting myself into?" I (Tracy) was flying to Utah to co-host two “Living Room Conversations” between gay and lesbian couples and their Mormons neighbors, with a friend from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS), Read More...

When we treat mental illness and substance abuse as criminal offenses, our communities experience unintended consequences. People with mental illness and substance abuse issues do indeed break the law. Fearing them, we spend enormous amounts of money maintaining and staffing jails and prisons and building new ones. Although the cost of incarceration exceeds the cost of treatment, including education and rehab programs; the latter programs actually decrease recidivism. The state Assembly Bill 109, Read More...

Political polarization in the United States is not a Washington DC problem, it's an American people problem. But because it's a people problem, the ultimate solution lies with them, with us. This roundtable pulled together folks from left, right and center and came up a range of ideas on how to fix the culture in the long-term, and tactically make progress in DC now. In the end, we did find much common ground and everyone felt more hopeful that America could work as one people once again. You will Read More...

Report to California Endowment - October 2014 Parts I and II Overview Living Room Conversations introduced a new type of conversation to Fresno and San Joaquin Counties of California. We reached out to community leaders, faith communities and school communities to recruit co-hosts Living Room Conversations. Additionally Living Room Conversations hosted two community events that were open to the public. Overall, people gathered in 36 small groups to talk about Realignment with subtopics on: Read More...

SEDONA'S LIVING ROOM CONVERSATIONS PROJECT a blog post by Paul Friedman, Ph.D. I am a long-term believer in the value of dialogue. I was on the Communication Studies faculty at the University of Kansas for 35 years. Nearly 10 years ago, I retired and moved to Sedona, Arizona, a town with about 10,000 residents, nestled in an attractive locale, which attracts many tourists and retirees. There, I coordinate a free community mediation center and am active in a local, member-run, adult education Read More...

I was awed by the incredibly qualified applicants who responded to our craigslist ad for Living Room Conversations organizers in Fresno and Stockton. Their expertise in criminal justice reform was substantial, in many cases informed by powerful background stories. Their collective resumes included working with people recently released from prison, homelessness, mental health, foster care, LGBT issues, developing more tolerance in faith communities, and more. I decided to host a non-standard Read More...

"To the Best of Our Knowledge" is a deeply thoughtful, nationally syndicated program produced by Wisconsin Public Radio. This Sunday, Aug. 24, they will air an interview on "healing the heart of democracy"—from the grassroots up—with me and my friend and colleague, Joan Blades. Check your local schedule for the time. Joan is the co-founder of MoveOn.org and of a wonderful civic renewal project called "Living Room Conversations," where I serve as a Project Partner. You can learn more about Read More...