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The One America Movement

Create a new identity that cuts across divisions in American society to reduce polarization and hate and help people solve problems together

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Explain your project idea (2,000 characters)

Polarization in American society is part of a negative feedback loop that pushes people to distrust each other and prevents them from working together. By reducing polarization, we can simultaneously improve our country’s capacity for collective problem-solving, and thus support the intersection of Peace and Prosperity. After all, for more than 100 years, income-inequality and political polarization in the US have risen and fallen together.

Our intervention is to create, build and promote a new identity that can bridge divides and reduce polarized, zero-sum narratives. It works like this:

-Create programming that brings people together across divides to act collectively on pressing social problems. This includes one-day projects involving community service, facilitated dialogue and shared meals, and longer-term projects to address community problems such as the opioid epidemic or race relations. Local communities determine the issues to work on.

-Through that work to achieve shared goals, individuals begin to create a new identity that cuts across previous divides.

-Rather than allow that identity to become amorphous or hyper-localized, we “brand” that identity as “One America” – the people who identify as “One America” group members may join for many different reasons, but they see that individuals across the country are joining them. They are part of a new team.

-The One America identity is designed as a positive feedback loop: when a person begins identifying as being part of “One America,” they by definition do so with people who they otherwise would have been polarized against. As they work together, their shared identity strengthens. Through that process, they recognize shared values and shared political positions they didn’t realize they had. They may even change each other’s minds, or they may continue to disagree but reduce their negative perceptions of the other person’s motives. This further strengthens their “One America” identity.

Who are the beneficiaries? (1,000 characters)

On the local level, it directly benefits the participants in our bridge-building events who learn new skills, build new relationships and create stronger community bonds that improve the quality of life locally.

On the local/regional level, it benefits the communities served through these projects. For instance, in Jefferson and Berkeley Counties, WV, it benefits individuals impacted by our service to combat opioid addiction.

Across local/regional/national levels, it benefits religious/racial minorities who are most directly harmed by political polarization. Polarization creates more rigid perceptions of people of other backgrounds, props up a status quo that on balance hurts people of color and politicizes issues like racism, turning it into a “liberal” agenda rather than a human one.

And globally, it benefits all people who stand to gain from a less polarized country that is more capable of addressing pressing social concerns such as climate change, racism or armed conflict.

How is your idea unique? (1,000 characters)

There are very few groups, if any, working explicitly to create a new identity that cuts across political, racial, religious and cultural divides. Our organization has several unique advantages that position us to achieve our goals:

-We have a track record of building trust-based relationships with communities and individuals across the full spectrum of America’s most salient divides. Because of those relationships, we have successfully engaged those communities and individuals in our projects.

-We have developed a model that successfully reduces polarization among participants who directly participate in those projects, backed by research and survey data.

-We have created a board and leadership that spans those divides and has these tough conversations internally – modeling what we are preaching to others.

-We have the support of researchers, academics, neuroscientists and social scientists who guide our work and help design our projects to be as effective as possible.

Idea Proposal Stage (choose one)

  • Early Adoption: I have completed a pilot and analyzed the impact of that pilot on the intended users of the idea. I have begun to expand the pilot for early adoption.

Tell us more about your organization/company (1 sentence and website URL)

We are a transpartisan movement of Americans from across the religious, racial and political spectrum who are frustrated with broken politics and divisive narratives and believe we can do better.

Expertise in sector

  • 7+ years

Organization Filing Status

  • No, but we are a formal initiative through an accelerator, hub, or other entity.

In 3-4 sentences, tell us the inspiration or story that encouraged you to start this project.

Days after the 2016 election, I threw out a speech I was supposed to give and in front of a packed room instead started a conversation about the election and what kind of country we wanted to be. Many participants expressed a deep sense of disconnection from their fellow Americans, and a longing to build a country where we could not just talk to each other, but work with each other. I left that room hopeful that an inclusive, moral vision, rather than a partisan one, could transform our country.

Please explain how your selected topic areas are influenced, in the local context of your project (1,000 characters).

The USA is currently experiencing high levels of polarization - which we believe is part of a broader cycle impacting American democracy and society - a negative feedback loop that is intensifying with significant implications for our ability to build peace and prosperity in the US and globally.

The failings of American democracy, including the disconnect between the desires of the American people and the policies advanced by Washington, is fueling a sense of alienation between people and government and between communities. This feeds polarization by strengthening "tribal identities" rather than unifying national identities, which in turn feeds a "zero-sum" mindset between groups (i.e. if you win, I lose). This prevents groups from working together to address pressing issues, which fuels the dysfunction of government.

This cycle threatens peace by intensifying identity-based conflict and threatens prosperity by reinforcing the status quo at a time of rising income inequality.

Who will work alongside your organization in the project idea? (1,000 characters)

Our work engages individuals, local communities, leaders and national organizations and religious institutions.

At the local level, we are empowering leaders in local communities to take action, including clergy and community leaders. We work with churches, synagogues, mosques, civic groups and service organizations such as homeless shelters, food pantries and more.

At the national level, our board and leadership includes religious leaders, political leaders, non-profit executives and representatives of national religious institutions that represent millions of Americans.

A small sampling of the organizations and religious institutions we partner with and/or have the support of the leadership of:

-The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops
-The United Methodist Church
-The Muslim Public Affairs Council
-Islamic Relief USA
-Repair the World
-The Cato Institute
-Black Lives Matter Greater New York
-Veterans for American Ideals
-Cooperative Baptist Fellowship

Please share some of the top strengths identified in the community which your project will serve (500 characters)

All across the US, people are frustrated with divisive and broken politics, with both major political parties and with continuing problems in our communities: violence, opioid addiction, income inequality, and more. There is a strong hunger for a new political and cultural identity that inspires us to work together and be together. There is an opportunity here, but also a risk - if we don't harness that energy and frustration for something positive, it can be used to further divide us.

Geographic Focus

National to US, but with focus on creating projects that are locally organized and locally designed.

How many months are required for the project idea? (500 characters)

24

Did you submit this idea to our 2017 BridgeBuilder Challenge? (Y/N)

  • No

If Yes, how has project idea changed, grown, or evolved since last year? (2,000 characters)

N/A

8 comments

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Photo of David MUYAI OTIENO
Team

This is such a wonderful project that can be replicated in many other communities suffer similar intimidation or isolation or even retaliation due to their position, be faith, religion, race. by political polarization does cut through dangerously creating tremendous harm and disassociation. I agree that polarization creates rigid perceptions, hurts and unnecessary politicizes issues, thereby denying the opportunity to work as team, a unified people. Such a project would people to understand our humanity, diversified and unique nature.

Photo of Andrew
Team

Thank you David! Amen.

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