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Kansas City Star: Village Square chapter in KC will hold its first dinner and public conversation Thursday

blue starFrom The Kansas City Star:

Think of the Village Square as a Southern front porch or a small town’s diner counter — a place where folks can come together and talk civilly about community and world issues.

That’s what Allan Katz, a professor at the University of Missouri-Kansas City, intends to bring back across the country with the launch of Village Square events. Katz is a co-founder of Village Square, a national organization started seven years ago in Tallahassee, Fla., as a way to restore civil discourse to national politics. The organization’s headquarters are at UMKC.

On Thursday, Katz, a UMKC alum and a former U.S. ambassador to Portugal, and Kansas City’s newly formed chapter of Village Square will have its first local event — Dinner at the Square at 6 p.m. at Kansas City’s Central Library, 14 W. 10th St.

Read the entire article in the Kansas City Star.



Mark Schlakman: Get past extreme partisan politics

From Sunday’s Tallahassee Democrat, Mark Schlakman of FSU’s Center for the Advancement of Human Rights writes about extreme partisanship and mentions The Village Square:

Closer to home, The Village Square, a project conceived by former Tallahassee city commissioner and U.S. ambassador to Portugal Allan Katz and spearheaded by Liz Joyner, has drawn national acclaim for its efforts to bridge the partisan divide. It was cited by Olympia Snowe, a Republican and former U.S. senator from Maine, who identified both The Village Square and No Labels among eight noteworthy organizations across the nation for their engagement on point.

Read the entire article online at Tallahassee.com.



Tallahassee Democrat: The Village Square expands to new cities

flying-pigFrom yesterday’s Tallahassee Democrat:

What grew out of a contentious 2006 coal-plant debate, is now being embraced elsewhere as a model for fostering civil discourse.

The Village Square, a Tallahassee-based civic and social-engagement organization now in its eighth year, is expanding to Fort Lauderdale, Sacramento and Kansas City, which will serve as the nonprofit’s national hub.

The organization hosts about 20 local programs a year, from the quirky “Speed Date Your Local Leaders” to more serious discussions on public corruption, immigration and Florida’s future. Its purpose is to engage the community in a civil debate on divisive issues in a factual and nonpartisan way.

Read the entire article online at Tallahassee.com.



The Christian Science Monitor: Civil discourse that doesn’t taste like broccoli

The Christian Science MonitorVillage Square co-founder Liz Joyner in The Christian Science Monitor:

From TALLAHASSEE, FLA. — In the early 1800s, things weren’t looking particularly good for the American experiment in self-governance. Coming to Washington with differences of opinion natural to a vast new land, early legislators lived and ate in boarding houses that became entrenched voting blocs. Thomas Jefferson wrote that these men came to work “in a spirit of avowed misunderstanding, without the smallest wish to agree.”

Apparently neither human nature nor legislatures have changed much since.

Read the entire article online at csmonitor.com.



Independent Voter Network: The Village Square

Screen shot 2014-04-06 at 3.32.56 PM


A profile of the Village Square by Glenn Davis published by Independent Voter Network:

“All politics is local.” – former House Speaker Tip O’Neill

The Village Square is about as local and as grassroots as an organization can get, taking a very bottom-up approach to problem-solving. They serve as brokers of conversation with the goal of setting a friendly tone in civic debate. They are about agreeing to disagree, but doing so in a manner where opposing views are respected and listened to. They are about discussing facts, not distortions, and reaching conclusions after the facts are understood. They are about celebrating what unites us, and engaging in civil, open discussions of what may divide us.

Read the entire article at IVN.us



Tallahassee Democrat: Pub gathering energizes Village Square’s town hall meetings

Club of Honest Citizens 1From the Tallahassee Democrat, Friday March 28, by Karl Etters: (Photo credit: Amanda Rodriguez, Leon County)

In the pub-centric style of town hall gatherings in the 1700s, Tallahassee-area residents, dubbed The Club of Honest Citizens, met Thursday night to discuss issues that affect the capital city.

But there were no powdered wigs or declarations, just a host of ideas on how to better the community based on four topics — economic development, library services, growth and health care with the theme “What is the proper role of government?”

Part of a formal partnership between the Village Square and the Leon County Commission, the first of three meetings is meant to be a place for open social discourse and engagement about the community.

Village Square Executive Director Liz Joyner said the old way of civil engagement surrounding formal meetings needed a revamp and a more positive way to bring people who differ together.

Read the entire article online at Tallahassee.com.



Jonathan Haidt in the Tallahassee Democrat: It helps if you can see the other side’s asteroids

Screen shot 2014-01-10 at 9.29.35 AMThe asteroids are coming! The asteroids are coming!

OK, I don’t mean literal asteroids made of rock and metal. I mean big problems that polarize us and therefore paralyze us.

If you’re on the left, you probably have extremely acute vision for threats such as global warming and rising inequality. You’ve tried to draw attention to the rising levels of carbon dioxide, the rising average global surface temperature and the rising seas. You’ve also grown increasingly disturbed by the percentage of the national income taken home by the richest 1 percent. In fact, I’ll bet you spotted those two asteroids back in the 1990s, when it would have been so much easier to deflect them, and you’re angry that conservatives are still deep in denial. What’s wrong with those conservatives?

On the other hand, if you’re on the right, you’ve probably been tracking our nation’s entitlement spending and the rise of nonmarital births for a long time now. You’ve been ringing alarms about those two asteroids since the 1970s, but liberals have treated you like Chicken Little, completely unconcerned. Caring is spending, they seem to believe. All forms of family are equally good for kids, they assert in spite of the evidence. What’s wrong with those liberals? Read the whole piece online at Tallahassee.com.



Senator Olympia Snowe names Village Square as one of eight groups working for political common ground

fighting for common groundThis week The Christian Science Monitor launched a new commentary series “Common Ground, Common Good.” We love the name and the concept.

But most of all we love that they wrote about Senator Olympia Snowe in their inaugural column, who named the Village Square as one of eight groups helping to define a political center in America. Even cooler yet is that we’re the only locally-based organization of the eight. From The Christian Science Monitor:

In her book, “Fighting for Common Ground,” Olympia Snowe, the former senator from Maine, writes that the “fastest way” for citizens to push for compromise in Congress is to “support the efforts of existing national groups” that advocate bipartisanship. She recommends the following eight organizations, urging people to “browse their websites, visit them on Facebook, and follow them on Twitter.”

Read the list online HERE.

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Photo credits: Senator Jay Rockefeller and Fighting for Common Ground book jacket.



USA Today: Residents Make a Date with City Leaders

Screen shot 2013-04-14 at 11.20.49 AMFrom USA Today, by TaMaryn Waters

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — It wasn’t really a dating scene.

But a non-profit here borrowed the concept of speed dating to allow a dozen officials and leaders to get some face time with about five dozen constituents Thursday.

Some participants quizzed leaders on water and air quality, budget issues, the homeless, development in rural areas, educational programs and police officers in schools. Others said little and allowed the leaders to share unknown facts about themselves or their stance on issues. Read the rest of the article at USA Today.

Watch the Video: HERE



Jonathan Haidt writes about The Village Square in the New York Times

In an article titled “Reasons Matter (When Intuitions Don’t Object)” our recent Dinner at the Square guest writes in The New York Times:

“We are particularly interested in organizations that try to create a sense of community and camaraderie as a precondition for political discussions. For example, a group called To the Village Square holds bipartisan events for citizens and community leaders in Tallahassee, Fla. They usually eat together before talking about politics — an effort to push a primitive cooperation button by breaking bread together. They talk a lot about their common identity as Tallahasseans. These are all efforts to manipulate participants — to change the warp of the epistemological table so that the horizontal dimension isn’t so steeply tilted, which opens up the possibility that good arguments offered by friends will move people, at least a trace, along the vertical dimension.”

Be sure to read the whole piece (which is a debate over the capacity of human reason), better yet, pick up a copy of The Righteous Mind: Why Good People are Divided by Politics and Religion. We are truly convinced that Jon Haidt is on to something.



Tallahassee Democrat: Author addresses deepening partisan divide

Tuesday’s dinner program is sold out, but you can still add your name to the waiting list HERE, hear Dr. Haidt speak at FSU HERE or listen to the program on WFSU 88.9 FM at 7pm on Friday, September 21 (or when it goes up online HERE).

From the Tallahassee Democrat:

Know anyone who reacts violently to political agendas of the “other side”?

They probably have a long list of reasons for their feelings: the other side is rude, selfish, has tunnel vision and is steering the nation to ruin.

Social psychologist and author Jonathan Haidt, Ph.D., thinks those very attitudes are destructive to America.

He’ll be speaking Tuesday night on the morality that “binds and blinds” our nation’s biggest political parties. Haidt will follow the ticketed, seated dinner and speech, “Polarization, Demonization and Paralysis in American Politics,” with a free, broader talk, “The Righteous Mind,” at Florida State University’s Student Life Cinema. Read the entire article in the Tallahassee Democrat.



Tallahassee Democrat: Village Square nonprofit expands to St. Pete

From today’s Tallahassee Democrat:

After six years in operation, The Village Square — a Tallahassee-based nonprofit that pushes for community engagement — is expanding Tuesday with the help of former Gov. Bob Graham.

The plan, which has developed over the past year, will make the St. Petersburg College in Pinellas County the location for the first offshoot of The Village Square. The organization draws from community members and aims to open dialogue about local, state and national matters that affect communities.

Liz Joyner, executive director of The Village Square Tallahassee, said she is excited about seeing the original idea expand to another city and practice the ability to talk about national issues.

“It’s really about neighbors connecting with neighbors, regardless of their ideology,” Joyner said. She added the local town hall meeting is what built America and that is what The Village Square aims to continue.

Bryan Desloge, The Village Square co-chair and Leon County Commisioner, said the organization is “trying to create a venue and a way for people to solve community issues without all the rancor and visceral debate and the spiteful back fighting you see in politics today. It doesn’t mean it’s not full contact, it doesn’t mean you don’t have spirited debates, it just means you talk about the facts.”

David Klement, executive director of the Institute of Strategic Policy Solutions at SPC, said the movement in St. Pete was initiated by himself and St. Petersburg College President Bill Law. Law was a co-founder of the Tallahassee Chapter of the Village Square and the former president of Tallahassee Community College.

Klement attended events in Tallahassee in 2009 and 2010 and said that he wanted to bring that kind of public discussion to his region.

“I would hope that we could emulate the Tallahassee chapter,” said Klement. “We’re learning from them, and we’ll learn hopefully from their mistakes and can get up to their speed quickly.”

Graham is expected to speak about renewing interest in civic duty in education. He was the choice as the keynote speaker because he “is respected across the state, on both sides of the aisle. He was never into the bipartisanship that exists now in many areas,” Klement said.

Sen. Dennis L. Jones (R-Seminole), who oversees the Economic Development and Innovative Projects at SPC, said the goal of the forum is to bring public, not political, issues to the forefront of discussion.

Topics that the group will discuss include a seminar in September on the eleventh anniversary of 9/11 on what Americans have learned since the event, said both Jones and Klement.



Liz Joyner: Reviving the town hall meeting

Published in the Tallahassee Democrat, February 15, 2012 There’s nothing more quintessentially American than a town hall meeting. It’s how the business of American community has gotten done from just about the moment the first disaffected European foot hit ground in the New World.

Even if you’ve never attended one, the town meeting is buried so deep in our country’s psyche that you can probably immediately call up its intimate details – rows of folding chairs, town council up front with only a school lunch table to define their status, a charmless but functional meeting room. Someone probably saw to it that there would be coffee and cookies. Overachievers might organize a potluck. Read all »