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The Common Enterprise
Matt Moseley, Program Coordinator
The Common Enterprise, a Rockefeller Foundation project, is working in four cities to bridge the gap between citizens who might otherwise have become enemies. The purpose of The Common Enterprise's four Democracy Roundtables is to encourage citizens to step beyond the ideological and partisan barriers which often frame political and social debates and work to address these issues together as partners with a common stake in their community.
The four Democracy Roundtables are designed to be "safe spaces" that enable diverse, sometimes adversarial groups in American cities to build cooperative, respectful relationships which are "advocates for the whole."
Each roundtable shares a commitment to: (1) including and ensuring the meaningful participation of diverse stakeholders that reflect the whole community; (2) addressing divisive community issues in a non-adversarial consensus-building process; and (3) building teams with the necessary relationships, trust, and respect that leads to solving community problems.
By developing "social capital" - networks, shared norms, and trust - and developing collaborative problem-solving skills among stakeholders at the local level, The Common Enterprise believes citizens can:
- communicate with one another about their experiences;
- learn about each other and the issues and problems they face; and
- act to revitalize citizen participation by addressing these challenges in collaboration with one another.
During the past year, the four sites—Tucson, San Antonio, San Diego, and Portland (Oregon)—have begun convening stakeholders to identify and develop solutions to specific differences within their communities. Each site has identified a local partner providing institutional support to the Roundtables and functioning as a grantee of the Rockefeller Foundation.
The Three Valleys Project, a partnership with Portland State University, is concerned with reducing cultural tensions that plague many American communities facing rapidly changing demographics. They are focused on three agricultural communities situated near Portland in the Hood River Valley, the Tualatin Valley, and the Mid-Willamette River Valley. Anglo and Latino residents of these communities have little social contact with each other. Over the past year, project staff have been engaged in meetings with stakeholders to identify issues and recruite Roundtable participants. The Three Valleys Roundtable is working to erase fear and isolation and to build relationships, trust, and understanding among the more established Anglo residents and the growing population of Latin newcomers by building common ground.
The San Diego Roundtable is helping to create a bi-national community in the San Diego/Tijuana border area by building a common, creative vision that is collectively defined by both established mainstream leaders and emerging community neighborhood leaders in the two cities. This Roundtable, a partnership between the University of California at San Diego's San Diego Dialogue and the Consensus Organizing Institute (COI), is mobilizing residents in the South San Diego and Tijuana communities who historically have not been involved in determining the future of the San Diego/Tijuana area. This group will form a "grassroots dialogue" to work in partnership with the Dialogue to develop strategies for building a bi-national community that addresses the concerns of low-income residents as well as those of the area as a whole.
The San Antonio Roundtable is concerned with improving the educational environment in high schools and rebuilding the relationships among youth, high schools, neighborhoods, and the larger community. It is being implemented through six participating San Antonio high schools. In the past year, the project—which is a partnership with Trinity University—has organized broad-based school/neighborhood teams, conducted citywide networking activities, organized inter-neighborhood youth involvement activities, and built relationships with other community members and organizations. In the coming year, the project hopes to build on the organizing work done so far to engage participants, especially youth, in mapping school, community, and city resources, and to begin the planning of activities that will sustain the community-building effort as well as increase access to resources that can help implement future programs to be defined by the school/neighborhood teams.
The Tuscon community has been so encouraged by the successful dialogue fostered by the Democracy Roundtable that it has decided to institutionalize this function in its community.. The Tuscon Democracy Roundtable, while begun in 1994, has succeeded in bringing diverse stakeholders to the table, from fundamentalist ministers to political activists, who eventually identified the root causes of conflict as inequities in power, control, and citizen participation in decision-making, and a lack of sensitivity to diverse cultures. Consequently, Roundtable participants committed resources to establishing a resource center to mediate conflict, provide information, and promote an alternative, consensus-based, and inclusive process for community decision-making.
The Common Enterprise Team
The Common Enterprise's Collaboration Team, Steering Committee, and staff is comprised of a variety of individuals whose different backgrounds find a common goal in promoting team-based community problem-solving. These individuals represent an array of American culture, ethnically, racially, and ideologically. Their diverse beliefs, experiences, and ideas bring strength and flexibility to The Common Enterprise. The Common Enterprise will continue to work with individuals who bring new skills and perspectives to our work.
Matt Moseley, Program Coordinator
The Common Enterprise
2321 Grove #
Boulder, CO 80302