by Emily Green •
It was a mid-December morning when we led the command staff of our local police department through their first “Common Ground Conversations on Race” Facilitation. Something special was unfolding: police officers were leaning forward, listening, sharing their stories – describing why they chose this work, and what they envisioned community policing could look like.
We were finding common ground.
With churches, police departments, nonprofits, municipal governments and school districts, CGC has had the great gift of introducing paradigm-shifting new knowledge and understanding through a lens of historical context and in a safe welcoming learning space that is no-blame, no-shame. Dialogue and conversation are built into the cadence of our time of learning, and the interactive space fosters a productive dialogue through a “conversations journey,” leading to actionable steps.
Over and over, we see and experience that CGC participants often begin with a sense of overwhelm (wondering what they can do), and as they listen, learn, gain proximity and understanding, their next step of action opens up for them in their sphere of influence.
As their lens widens, their next step is illuminated.
A few years ago, our boys participated in a local homeschool co-op community. They had an assignment: share about Dr. King. In preparing them for that, there were so many beautiful conversations around our table; and they nailed the presentation. 😊 The teacher commented on how well the boys did and we began, around that same season, to have so many people ask us: how do the Greens navigate conversations about race? What does this look like in the Green’s house? We consistently heard feelings of hesitation and uncertainty about how – or if – to talk about race.
The idea was born – a natural and holy next step that drew from Mike’s work as a cultural economist and Chief Strategist for the National Institute for Inclusive Competitiveness. He is a nationally recognized subject matter expert on race and economics, hired by institutions, cities and policy-making organizations around the nation to speak, guide and advise. I have a degree and background in social work, serving vulnerable communities with a wraparound model in southern California and southern Oregon as well as speaking and facilitating groups. We created and began to share a workshop, “How to Talk to Kids About Race in America,” around the nation in 2019. It was incredible!
The pandemic of 2020 paused our travels and engagements, and Mike continued his full professional schedule. Then, soon after we all watched the horrific murder of George Floyd, the invitations came and “Common Ground Conversations on Race” was born.
In just a year and a half, we’ve had the extraordinary blessing of facilitating CGC on Race (online and in-person) and are so encouraged by all that is unfolding:
A school district superintendent invited CGC to conduct training for his leadership team and school board members after a hostile community response to a scheduled Black Lives Matter picnic in the area. Even anti-CRT school board members embraced CGC training and applauded it. Said one presumed hostile school board member: “I appreciate the fact-based non-emotional content; and there’s nothing I heard that our community wouldn’t be completely receptive of.” The superintendent subsequently invited CGC back to conduct a separate CGC workshop for his leadership team, that included interactive exercises, such as Active Listening.
An evangelical pastor, after experiencing an in-person half-day CGC facilitation, invited other churches to join in a separately scheduled full-day CGC experience, complete with an immersive workshop. Participants left feeling informed, energized and focused.
My husband and I have had the great gift of leading a wide variety of groups through CGC Facilitations, and we continue to find that the combination of truthful information coupled with reflective dialogue and honest conversation can lead to transformation.
As an orientation process, our CGC Facilitation has helped participants overcome resistance to race-related discourse and racial equity training. CGC orientations introduce new knowledge and understanding while inspiring even the most polarized people to engage in productive dialogue that leads to collaborative steps toward systemic change in workplace environments, classrooms and communities.
We believe the truth withstands scrutiny, and that the truth has the power to transform.
On that December morning last month, law enforcement officers explored and learned together. Their time with CGC concluded with a strong sense of hopeful energy and next steps. There were, of course, moments of stepping into tender and tense topics. We all embraced the discomfort in order to grow. And for this department, growing includes ever-deepening relationships with our local community that they serve as “Community Engagement Specialists.” We are grateful for their willingness to co-create a “Law Enforcement Toolkit” with CGC. We’re excited about this opportunity and what the future holds by helping institutions and organizations build common ground through facilitated conversations.
Emily and Mike Green are co-founders of Common Ground Conversations on Race in America (commongroundconversations.com). They reside in southern Oregon and have two homeschooled boys with a daughter in college. Emily has a degree in social work with over a decade of experience managing wraparound services for families in need, in southern California and southern Oregon. Mike is a cultural economist, author, national consultant and Chief Strategist at the National Institute for Inclusive Competitiveness. To contact Emily, email her at firstname.lastname@example.org