The other night about 35 people in Fresno got together at “the big red church” to talk about Ending the Political Un-Civil War. They were real estate brokers, retirees, non-profit leaders, former senior business executives, conservative columnists and politicos from the left and right. The purpose of the evening was to engage this group of community thought leaders and networkers in the possibility of a new way to going about politics. A way that moves beyond traditional dualities and fixed positions by applying proven techniques of dialogue, deliberation, and conflict resolution.
Invitations for the evening went to all sides and was promoted on Alan Autry’s conservative radio show, but to be honest those who showed up tended to be more progressive. In the future transpartisan events will be coordinated with groups like the local Tea Party (which had a concurrent event that night) so that, ideally, participation is approximately a third progressive, a third conservative, and a third independent or unaligned.
The room was set up as a world cafe format (fp_cafe-3.jpg), and after an introduction to the national organizing work of the Transpartisan Alliance and setting of ground rules for civil dialogue, participants began to talk among themselves. They told stories to each other about “what experience most shaped their political point of view.” They then told a story about a time when they were deeply emotionally triggered by a political conversation, person or issue. They then were asked to step into the other point of view and tell the story, in the first person, through the other’s eyes. It was at about this point in the evening that most folks realised that we all have stories…liberal, conservatives, greens, independents, even those who choose not to participate. (See photo at Transpartisan World Cafe.jpg.
After this opportunity to get to know each other as people rather than labels or positions, participants had a chance to brainstorm as a group about “The Transpartisan Possibility in Fresno.” What would transpartisan dialogue aimed a building bridges of cooperation look like here? Would it be a series of trust building house parties among formal and informal community leaders? Would it have to focus on an issue like water or economic development to get people involved? Would a core group of citizen leaders form a neutral convening body that could organize town halls where all sides felt welcome, trusted the integrity of the process and were comfortable their particular agenda would be honored.
Tuesday night’s town hall was the next step in an unfolding process that began with a house party among a dozen or so folks on labor day week end. Fresno based core team member of the Transpartisan Alliance, Debilyn Molineaux, is committed to keeping the conversation moving forward. If you’re intrigued, inspired to learn more or just want to play with this new approach to creating win-win solutions for Fresno, contact Debilyn at [email protected], or 559-213-8463?