In April of this year, thousands of Americans took part in the first National Week of Conversation (NWOC). More than 130 schools, libraries, faith communities, activist groups and nonprofits hosted conversations coast to coast in 32 states. These conversations were grounded in a pledge to listen first and seek understanding. The official #ListenFirst hashtag reached millions during NWOC and continues to be promoted by celebrities and journalists to millions more. NWOC events gained media attention across the nation including in the New York Times.
Majorities of NWOC participants walked away feeling more tolerant, understanding, appreciative and curious toward people with different perspectives. Two-thirds rated the value of their conversation as a 9 or 10 out of 10. More than three-quarters now feel better equipped and more likely to listen first to understand, as well as more likely to participate in conversations across divides. A survey of all Americans found 75% willing to set a good example by practicing conversations across divides, and 36%—amounting to more than 100 million people—want to see a national campaign promoting such conversations.
Building on the tremendous success of National Week of Conversation and the momentum it generated, we are now launching an ongoing National Conversation Project to mend the frayed fabric of America by bridging divides one conversation at a time. National Conversation Project (NCP) will engage increasingly more partners and participants through synchronized monthly conversation opportunities (on or around the first Friday of each month) as well as semi-annual National Weeks of Conversation. National Conversation Project is built in the spirit of collaboration, innovation, and shared ownership. NCP will be powered and driven by a broad diversity of Americans in their communities. It’s designed as an open platform for all participants to adapt and shape to be their own. Participants and hosting partners will be welcome to use the conversation model and topic of their choice, or simply have a casual conversation, while NCP will offer tools and potential topics.
National Conversation Project seeks to mainstream conversations across divides in which we listen first to understand. NCP will invite people of all stripes to connect with one another, develop relationships, and revitalize America together.
Pearce Godwin is Executive Director of National Conversation Project and CEO of Listen First Project