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Equip organizations to effectively depolarize community conflicts with proven, attractional empathy-building method.

Strengthening democracy by equipping communities to foster peace with a proven process that brings opponents together and increases empathy.

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Communities throughout the United States are faced with conflicts that seem increasingly intractable because we are losing the ability to talk openly with people who think differently than us. This is a problem for our relationships and, more broadly, for our democracy. However, community organizations can learn to hold facilitated Respectful Conversations, which are proven to increase empathy among people divided by differing perspectives.

Explain your idea

Bridging peace and planet requires that we be able to peacefully engage with our fellow citizens on ideas where we disagree. Our society’s ability to address our nation’s impact on planetary concerns is negatively affected when we lose the skills to bridge our interpersonal differences. Democracy is necessarily a government of trusting relationships but this trust is crumbling because we are increasingly placing ourselves in echo chambers where the only perspectives we hear validate our own. Enter Respectful Conversations: facilitated, structured processes employed by thousands of people to increase empathy, improve listening skills, increase their ability to dialogue and transform relationships. While the Minnesota Council of Churches has been employing Respectful Conversations to address specific issues of community conflict – human sexuality, drones and violence, interfaith relations, urban and rural social needs, “race” relations, gun control and now Trump-era reconciliation conversations – there is a growing awareness that many tears in our cultural cloth are not being mended because many people have lost the ability to sew. That is, we’re losing trust of those with whom we disagree because we are decreasingly in relationship with people different than us. What we have proven with Respectful Conversations is that people who experience them are drawn to them, can have constructive dialogue with those with whom they disagree, and emerge better-equipped to be empathic citizens in the future. 98% of participants feel listened to and over two thirds feel more empathy for those with whom they disagree. Our level II evaluations also show lasting curiosity about those with different perspectives and better listening skills. With funding from Open IDEO we will respond to increasing national demand for this model by hiring staff to train more facilitators and to provide ongoing support and evaluation for regional facilitator communities.

Who Benefits?

This project strengthens democracy in the United States by helping us to more directly engage our differences and better relate to those with whom we disagree. Most-helped will be those in communities riven by conflict, those for whom animosity or an inability to address key issues are keeping them from their objectives, and the vulnerable populations who are best served by a functioning democratic system.

How is your idea unique?

What makes Respectful Conversations stand out from other democracy-strengthening conflict mediation or facilitation methods is: 1. Its objective is not to move a group towards a unanimous decision, but simply to help opponents empathize with each other. 2. Unlike many other dialogue and deliberation models this one is heavily evaluated by participants and hosts both at the time of the conversation intervention and a significant duration of time later. 3. The process we seek more widely to employ is already proven and in greater demand than we are able to meet given current staffing and capacity.

Idea Proposal Stage

  • Full-scale roll-out: I have completed a pilot and analyzed the impact of that pilot on the users I am trying to reach with my idea. I am ready to expand the pilot significantly.

Tell us more about you

The Minnesota Council of Churches is made up of 25 member denominations representing almost 1,000,000 Christians in Minnesota. It has conducted over 100 Respectful Conversations with over 2,000 participants and partnered with faith-based and mainstream secular organizations to do so. The program director, Rev. Jerad Morey, has an M.A. in Peace and Conflict Resolution.

Expertise in sector

  • 5-7 years

Organization Filing Status

  • Yes, we are a registered non-profit.


Join the conversation:

Photo of eldy wullur

Hello Rev. Jared,

The world understand the American culture is very diverse, but the problem is actually for the World, America was exemplary .. pilot.
Progress in science, prosperity inherent in the American .. highly revered. But unfortunately less attention in the field of public relations. see American films, sometimes so very vulgar .. sex revolution turned out to be very bad impact than good. A bit strange to see a boxing match where every round beautiful woman wearing a bikini. Though bikini for swimming. There is a scene met at the cafe, ten minutes later was in bed .. for us Asians - felt oh so cheaply, or war movies that dialogue is filled with profanity.
I guess it does not in real life. We adored America, especially from the humanitarian side is so thick. I think your idea to talk in a respectful manner is appropriate to begin to change the self-image of America.
May our dear Lord Jesus blessed you always.

Photo of Jerad

Thank you for the blessing! I believe you are right that sometimes America's problems end up beign shared with the world. Prayerfully, with more practice engaging in empathy-building Respectful Conversations, more of our blessings can be shared with the world, too.