The following resources have been assembled to assist libraries as they plan their Building Common Ground program series. Libraries should review these resources after identifying their institutional and community goals for this project. Building Common Ground programs should be multiformat so that participants may find their own level of interaction and involvement with issues raised through this project.

Charter for Compassion Programs

Libraries may create reflection, engagement, and action programs using the Charter for Compassion as the overarching theme. Libraries may wish to convene reading and discussion groups on Twelve Steps to a Compassionate Life, include resources found at the International Institute for Compassionate Cities in a resource fair for the community, or market relevant Building Common Ground programs through the Compassionate Action Network. The Charter for Compassion is a document that transcends religious, ideological, and national difference. Supported by leading thinkers from many traditions, the Charter activates the Golden Rule around the world. Building Common Ground applicants are encouraged to integrate the Charter for Compassion resources into their program plan.

Key Resources

Twelve Steps to a Compassionate LifeTwelve Steps to a Compassionate Life by Karen Armstrong. December 2011. Anchor, paperback, 240 pages. 978-0307742889

Twelve Steps to a Compassionate Life by Karen Armstrong. 2010. Knopf, hardcover, 222 pages. 978-0-307-59559-1

Karen Armstrong, writer and comparative religion scholar, who received the 2008 TED Prize, her vision of a Charter for Compassion, asks people to “make compassion a clear, luminous and dynamic force in our polarized world.” Twelve Steps to a Compassionate Life offers a practicum for bringing the Golden Rule into play in everyday life.

The book has been adopted by discussion groups around the country who meet every 2–4 weeks, often using the Reading Group Organizer’s Guide (PDF).

Check out the Booklist Feature Article, The Booklist Interview: Karen Armstrong

Ilene Cooper (author)

First Published November 15, 2011

Conversations About Compassion

During the Fetzer Institute’s four-year Campaign for Love & Forgiveness, a Facilitator and Participant Guide (PDF) was developed to assist with exploration of the power of compassion. The guide provides tools for facilitating conversations about compassion in communities, organizations, businesses, or schools.

Related Charter for Compassion Sites

Compassionate Cities supports compassionate initiatives in cities, towns, counties, states and provinces, regions, nations, universities, faith groups, schools, service groups, and other places where human beings gather.

Compassionate Action Network is a network of self-organizing groups who share a common vision for a compassionate world.

Common Ground Tours

Libraries may create a Common Ground Tour. This off-site event can be a fun and thought provoking way to engage the community through programming. Common Ground tours take community members on a curated tour of significant sites that engage participants in a community’s collective memory, places of natural or manmade meaning, beauty or reverence. Because every community is different, a Guide to Creating Common Ground Tours is available to assist project directors in putting together a library organized tour. A webinar exploring this resource was offered on Thursday, October 27, 2011, at 2 p.m. CST. You may access an archived version of this webinar on the Programming Librarian website.

Films and Video

Viewing and discussion programs that present documentary or independent films related to the Building Common Ground themes, followed by a facilitated discussion can bring audiences together to explore meaningful issues and understand and relate to each other. Libraries may use the provocative video shorts provided as added texture to book discussions or context setting for facilitated discussions; the weighty feature length Forgiveness documentaries as a centerpieces for additional multi-format programming, and other video content, such as Krista Tippet’s TED talk as springboards to larger discussions of community issues. Libraries are encouraged to explore the wealth of film and video content recommended in the Video Galleries to create their multi-format Building Common Ground program series.

Public Performance Rights

Any library wishing to show films or videos to the public other than those found on this website, must arrange for public performance rights (PPR). For more information, see Copyright Tips for Programming Librarians: Public Performance Rights.

The following Web sites may also be useful in obtaining reviews and additional information about these films, as well as information about PPR:

Swank Motion Pictures, Inc. now offers a Movie Public Performance Site License to libraries on an annual basis. Information is at Movie Licensing USA.

Project on Civic Reflection

Libraries may host civic reflection discussions as part of their Building Common Ground program series, using selections from the Project on Civic Reflection readers. Facilitators for these programs must register for upcoming Project on Civic Reflection facilitation training sessions or ALA-sponsored Civic Reflection preconferences, or have already completed the Project on Civic Reflection training, in order for the programs to be eligible for this project. Travel to these workshops is an eligible expense for the Building Common Ground project.

About the Project on Civic Reflection

The Project on Civic Reflection’s mission is to strengthen community and deepen understanding by helping people and organizations think and talk about the meaning of their work in the world. They foster the practice of reflective discussion, by utilizing readings, images, and video, in order to help people consider the beliefs and values that underlie their commitments—leading to clarity about their work, stronger relationships, and more committed effective action. The work of the Project on Civic Reflection is a valuable resource for library programs because they provide pre-selected suggested readings, facilitation training and a program model.

Key Resources

The Civically Engaged Reader A Diverse Collection of Short Provocative Readings on Civic ActivityThe Civically Engaged Reader A Diverse Collection of Short Provocative Readings on Civic Activity by Adam Davis and Elizabeth Lynn, 2006.Great Books Foundation, paper, 325 pages. 978-0945159490

Hearing the Call across TraditionsHearing the Call across Traditions: Readings on Faith and Service by Adam Davis, 2011. Skylight Paths, paper, 325 pages. 978-1594733031

Reading and Discussion

Libraries may include book discussions in their Building Common Ground program series. The themes of community, civility and compassion may resonate with established reading and book discussion groups at your library or provide an excellent opportunity to target a new audience and explore community issues through literature. The following titles have each been selected as suggested readings for the Building Common Ground project. Each title has a connection to one of the three themes of community, civility or compassion. Some explore these themes through fictional stories of migration and family, conflict and resolution; others look at a cross-cultural belief systems and the natural world and their influence on daily lives and the building of civilizations.

Although most of the books listed have discussion guides, Donna Seaman, Senior Editor of Booklist magazine has created discussion points to specifically assist with explorations of civility, compassion and community. The following discussion points are encouraged and each title has a downloadable discussion guide that may also prove to be a valuable book group resource. In addition to the recommended readings below, RUSA’s Notable Books Committee has put together a list of recommended readings (PDF) broken down by themes of Civility, Community and Compassion to share with library patrons.

Selection Overview

What criteria did we use to select titles for the Building Common Ground book discussion group? We sought titles that dynamically and provocatively address the three themes: community, civility, and compassion. We looked for finely crafted books distinguished by close observation, lucid thinking, flights of imagination, risk-taking, moral inquiry, wit, and wonder. Books that provide pleasure as well as knowledge and food for thought. In Where Shall Wisdom Be Found? critic Harold Bloom writes, “The mind always returns to its needs for beauty, truth, and insight.” We agree, and therefore we followed Bloom’s lead in choosing books that possess “aesthetic splendor, intellectual power, and wisdom.” Discussion groups may find this thematic overview (PDF) helpful to literary discussions of community, civility and compassion.


The Toughest Indian in the WorldThe Toughest Indian in the World by Sherman Alexie. 2000. Grove, paper, 238 pages, 978-0802138002.

Discussion Questions (PDF)
Sherman Alexie Grove/Atlantic Reader’s Guide

Sherman Alexie’s list of awards includes the National Book Award, PEN Faulkner Award, the PEN Malamud Award for Excellence in the Art of the Short Story, and the Sundance Filmmaker’s Trophy for Smoke Signals, a film he wrote and coproduced. An incisive, outspoken, and humorous writer for all ages, Alexie tackles thorny questions of Indian culture and white conquest, marriage and adultery, racism, genocide, suicide, and the saving grace of love in this vital, complex, and provocative collection. Alexie’s arresting short stories cast a rainbow of feelings, experiences, and ways of knowing that will instigate frank inquiries into violence, human rights, suffering, folly, and the dream of a better world.

The GuardiansThe Guardians by Ana Castillo. 2007. Random, paper, 240 pages. 978-0812975710.

Discussion Questions (PDF)
Ana Castillo Random House Reader’s Guide

Mexican American writer and artist Ana Castillo is a steely yet spiritual observer of American cultural divides and persistent sexism. She brings cross-cultural experience, a deep literary sensibility, wry humor, and a social conscience to her poems, essays, stories, and novels as she writes about bifurcated and besieged lives. In The Guardians, a tale told in four voices, Castillo forthrightly and dramatically addresses the cruel realities of the borderland between Mexico and the United States. As her characters search for a missing father and brother, Castillo orchestrates conflicts and predicaments that guide readers toward issues of equality, citizenship, responsibility, and justice, all intricately tied to definitions of community, civility, and compassion.

The Dew BreakerThe Dew Breaker by Edwidge Danticat. 2002. Vintage, paper, 256 pages. 978-1400034291.

Discussion Questions (PDF)
Edwidge Danitcat Random House Reader’s Guide

Haitian American writer and MacArthur fellow Edwidge Danticat grapples with the traumas of Haiti’s violently repressive politics and the Haitian diaspora in her fourth work of fiction, a novel-in-stories that is at once pinpoint specific and genuinely universal in its insights into tyranny, exile, and the challenges of immigration. With a moral compass as precise as her keen sense of character, place, and story, Danticat brings to life people who perpetuated or suffered the brutalities of this island nation’s corrupt dictatorships, and the children who inherited this grim legacy. She is at her most empathic in her portrayal of a man who works for the state as a torturer, or “dew breaker.” As she sensitively charts the reverberations of violence, Danticat traces the web of relationships that define every life, considers broken communities and their resurrection in a new land, and celebrates the healing powers of art and truth.

A Good FallA Good Fall by Ha Jin. 2009. Vintage, paper, 256 pages. 978-0307473943.

Discussion Questions (PDF)
Ha Jin Random House Reader’s Guide

National Book Award winner Ha Jin presents a cycle of bittersweet stories about a Chinese immigrant community in Flushing, New York. Ha Jin’s ear and eye for Chinese American life are acute, as is his sense of the complications and conflicts of familial and neighborhood relationships, and of how one life can be shaped by sorrow, irony, desperation, and magic. Marriage, generational differences, ambitions, unexpected enlightenment, and wonderfully diverse characters make for surprising, funny, and sad stories of the quest for freedom and self-realization. A Good Fall goes beyond simplistic notions of immigrant life, allowing readers to ponder and discuss subtle questions of the influence of community, civility, and compassion.

The Crying TreeThe Crying Tree by Naseem Rakha. 2010. Broadway, paper, 368 pages. 978-0767931748.

Naseem Nakha Random House Reader’s Guide

A story of a family’s journey toward justice and forgiveness, beginning with deputy sheriff Nate Stanley uprooting his family from their community in rural Illinois to relocate for a deputy position in Oregon. Nate, his wife and their two children, Bliss and Shep, begin to settle into their new home and life, until one afternoon when Nate returns home to find his 15-year-old son beaten and shot in their kitchen. After Shep dies in Nate’s arms, the family seeks vengeance against the young man accused of Shep’s murder. Nineteen years pass between Shep’s death and his killer’s legal execution, a period in which Bliss becomes a kind of caretaker for her grieving parents, and Irene moves towards forgiveness of her son’s killer. Rakha explores themes of compassion and civility, as well as the controversial subjects of capital punishment, forbidden relationships and forgiveness for horrific acts.

Digging to AmericaDigging to America by Anne Tyler. 2006. Ballantine, paper, 304 pages.

Discussion Questions (PDF)
Anne Tyler Random House Reader’s Guide

Bestselling novelist Anne Tyler, recipient of the Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Critics Circle Award, is adept at discerning social conflicts at work in private lives, especially the crucible of family. In her seventeenth novel she creates two distinct households unexpectedly linked when they arrive at the Baltimore airport to await the arrival of their respective adopted Korean baby daughters. Bitsy and Brad Donaldson appear to be stereotypical white middle-class Americans. The Yazdans—Ziba, Sami, and Sami’s glamorous, long-widowed mother, Maryam, are Iranian Americans. As the families stay in touch over the years, Tyler explores what it feels like to be viewed as “exotic” or “foreign” in America before and after 9/11. Tyler’s deeply human novel will fuel conversations about cultural and generational differences and how civility, communication, and compassion are essential for families and communities.


GarbageGarbage by A. R. Ammons. 2002. Norton, paper, 128 pages, 978-0393324112.

Discussion Questions (PDF)

A.R. Ammons (1926–2001) published nearly 30 poetry collections, and among his many honors are two National Book Awards, including one for this masterfully direct yet stealthily nuanced book-length poem. In 100 couplets, Ammons wittily and philosophically considers a life of “elegance and simplicity” at the age of 63, while nimbly excavating a landfill along Florida’s I-95, and teasingly asserting that “garbage is spiritual.” As he considers how we turn objects into trash, he also muses over how we transform feelings into words. Reading trash, writing poetry, seeking to understand a lifetime’s acquisitions and discards, and what brings us together and what drives us apart, Ammons finds grace in castoffs, rebirth in decay, and beauty in the great cycles of life. This unique volume will spur readers to see questions of existence and change, treasure and trash, communal assumptions and individual choices through freshly opened doors of perception.

Red BirdRed Bird by Mary Oliver. 2008. Beacon, 96 pages, 978-0807068939.

Discussion Questions (PDF)

Not only has poet Mary Oliver won numerous major honors, she is also ardently read by a great cross-section of the public. Her popularity is due to her clarity of language, her keenness of observation, and her ecstatic response to the glories and lessons of nature. Oliver addresses wildness both in nature and within ourselves, never forgetting that the same life force flows through us as through her beloved dogs, and all the birds, deer, foxes, snakes, trees, and flowers she writes about with such knowledge and gratitude. Oliver finds comfort in nature’s instructive patience and renewal, and offers caustic critiques of our destruction of habitats and endangerment of animal species, the loss of so much wonder and wisdom. Readers will be delighted and moved by Oliver’s lithe elucidations of the spiritual dimensions of community, compassion, and civility.

WayfareWayfare by Pattiann Rogers. 2008. Penguin, paper, 130 pages. 978-0143113348.

Discussion Questions (PDF)

Distinguished poet Rogers, recipient of many fellowships and a Lannan Foundation Literary Award, attends to nature in all its resplendent variety with scientific scrutiny and exalted spirituality, and writes with equal rapture about the radiance of human creativity, celebrating music, theater, art, and philosophy. From birds and flowers to rock and bone, the Milky Way to insects, Rogers is dazzled by the fervor of life and moved to prayer. Her poems serve as microscopes and telescopes, enabling readers to see the cosmic continuity of life, and why our thoughtful and caring response to the world matters so very much.


The WayfindersThe Wayfinders: Why Ancient Wisdom Matters in the Modern World by Wade Davis. 2009. House of Anansi Press, 280 pages, 978-0887847660.

Discussion Questions (PDF)

Anthropologist and ethnobotanist Davis, who frequently appears in National Geographic television series, has traveled the world to learn first-hand about indigenous cultures. His findings about the richness of traditional worldviews inspired him to coin the term “ethnosphere” to affirm that our vital and diverse cultural web is as essential to our existence as the biosphere. A scientist with a remarkable feel for language, Davis reports on his illuminating sojourns with indigenous peoples in the Amazon, the Andes, the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta, Australia, Borneo, and the Arctic, all of whom perceive the necessity of preserving the living world as a spiritual duty. Davis’ chronicle of the fertile bond between people and place and sustainable ways of being offers provocative alternatives to materialism, and greatly enhances our notion of what it means to be civilized.

A Sand County AlmanacA Sand County Almanac by Aldo Leopold. 1949. 295 pages.

Discussion Questions (PDF)
Aldo Leopold Reader’s Guide (PDF)

Aldo Leopold (1887–1948) closely observed the living world around him in Sand County, Wisconsin, and wrote exquisitely about the beauty and “rightness” of nature, most famously in his tribute to the glory of sandhill cranes. Leopold was a quiet revolutionary who extended the definition of community to embrace the entire living world. His cogent call for a “land ethic” based on scientifically informed and sustainable preservation, as well as universal compassion, profoundly advanced environmental science and practice. This classic work of nature writing is a joy to read, and a keystone book in ecology, which teaches the core lesson that everything is connected and that ethical considerations are inherent in all of our interactions with nature and each other.

Dakota: A Spiritual BiographyDakota: A Spiritual Biography by Kathleen Norris. 1993. Marine, paper, 256 pages. 978-0618127245.

Discussion Questions (PDF)
Kathleen Norris Reader’s Guide (click on the “Reader’s Guide” link in the right navigation bar to access)

In this groundbreaking, now celebrated book of inquiry, memory, and reflection, poet Kathleen Norris chronicles her leaving New York City, to live in the isolated house her grandparents built on the line between North and South Dakota, a harsh yet magnificent place conducive to contemplation. In this candid and graceful narrative, Norris describes her communion with the land, her family history, her work in a public library and country schools, and her revelatory involvement with the Plains monastic tradition, pursuits that deepen her appreciation for heightened awareness and open-heartedness, silence and words, spirit and earth. Norris’ thoughts about action and engagement will foster discussion of what it means to be a productive member of a community, how civility can bring strangers together, and how compassion can inform one’s understanding of the past, other people, and the landscape itself.

The Grace of SilenceThe Grace of Silence by Michele Norris. 2010. Pantheon, 208 pages.

Discussion Questions (PDF)
Michele Norris Random House Reader’s Guide

Norris, an award-winning journalist and cohost of National Public Radio’s All Things Considered, discovered long-hidden aspects of her family’s history that cast new light on African American culture. In this questing and captivating memoir, Norris portrays her maternal grandmother who worked as a traveling Aunt Jemima, then rigorously dissects this controversial icon. When she learns that her father, after returning home to Birmingham, Alabama, after serving in World War II, was shot by a white policeman, she looks into the “scandalous violence against black men who had fought for human rights abroad.” Norris’ pursuit of the truth is matched by her unerring sense of fairness, and her warm and lively look at family and society raises many questions about the failings and strengths of community, the value of diversity, and the endless need for compassion.

Standing in the LightStanding in the Light: My Life as a Pantheist by Sharman Apt Russell. 2008. Basic, paper, 320 pages. 978-0465013807.

Discussion Questions (PDF)

Award-winning nature and science writer Sharman Apt Russell, a professor at Western New Mexico University, brings her curiosity and rhapsodic writing to a many-faceted history of and personal engagement with pantheism, which Russell describes as “the belief that the universe, with all its existing laws and properties, is an interconnected whole that we can rightly consider sacred.” Russell’s account of the profound influence this holistic perspective has had on diverse religions, poetry, the transcendentalists, and ecology, will engender conversations about the deepest levels of community, civility, and compassion. And about how appreciation and contemplation of the wonder and complexity of life can lead to meaningful engagement and right action.

Reverence: Renewing a Forgotten VirtueReverence: Renewing a Forgotten Virtue by Paul Woodruff. 2002. Oxford University Press, paper, 256 pages. 978-0195157956.

Discussion Questions (PDF)

Philosopher and classicist Paul Woodruff feels that reverence—the sense of a greater, transcendent force, and our feeling of awe in the presence of beauty—has been lost in the clamor of life, that its true meaning and resonance have been diminished. His eloquent and stirring treatise, therefore, seeks to reclaim reverence as the virtue that “lies behind civility and all the graces that make life in society bearable and pleasant.” Like courage, Woodruff argues, reverence is not tied to any single belief system, but rather “habits of reverence” lead to healthy communities and compassionate and positive involvement and action in every sphere of life, from family to schools, work, business, politics, finances, and the management of natural resources.

Speaker Resources

Many libraries will pursue lectures, presentations and panel discussions as formats for their issues-driven Building Common Ground program series. The Library’s partner organization may be a perfect source for expert speakers and presenters familiar with local issues and concerns. Speakers’ bureaus maintained by colleges, universities and state humanities councils are also an excellent source for experienced presenters and scholars, who are available as presenters for low honorarium, or underwritten fees.

The following table lists all of the State Humanities Councils across the country with active speakers’ bureaus. It also includes the speakers’ bureaus for the Organization of American Historians and the American Studies Association. Experts and scholars listed in these bureaus are pre-screened and practiced at speaking before public audiences. Libraries in these regions may find this resource useful in planning programs, panels and lectures for their Building Common Ground series.

Alabama Alabama Humanities Foundation
Arizona Arizona Humanities Council
Connecticut Connecticut Humanities Council
Delaware Delaware Humanities Forum
Florida Florida Humanities Council
Idaho Idaho Humanities Council
Illinois Illinois Humanities Council
Iowa Humanities Iowa
Kansas Kansas Humanities Council
Kentucky Kentucky Humanities Council
Maryland Maryland Humanities Council
Michigan Michigan Humanities Council
Montana Humanities Montana
Nebraska Nebraska Humanities Council
Nevada Nevada Humanities Council
New Hampshire New Hampshire Humanities Council
New Jersey New Jersey Council for the Humanities
New Mexico New Mexico Humanities Council
New York New York Council for the Humanities
North Carolina North Carolina Council for the Humanities
Ohio Ohio Humanities Council
Rhode Island Rhode Island Council for the Humanities
South Carolina Humanities Council SC
South Dakota South Dakota Humanities Council
Texas Humanities Texas
Vermont Vermont Humanities Council
Washington Humanities Washington
West Virginia West Virginia Humanities Council
Wisconsin Wisconsin Humanities Council
OAH Organization of American Historians
ASA American Studies Association

Story Collections Projects

Libraries may want to organize a program that draws on the collective and individual memories of community, civility and compassion as told by community members. These stories can then be shared with the community at a screening, exhibit or podcast, or added to the community archives. Community organizations such as historical societies or museums would be valuable partners in these undertakings.

The following links may be helpful resources for developing library-based story collecting programs:

  • The Smithsonian Folklife and Oral History Interviewing Guide (PDF). There is a paper copy of this guide in the back of the site support notebook.

  • The American Memory Project provides free and open access through the Internet to written and spoken words, sound recordings, still and moving images, prints, maps, and sheet music that document the American experience. It is a digital record of American history and creativity. These materials, from the collections of the Library of Congress and other institutions, chronicle historical events, people, places, and ideas that continue to shape America, serving the public as a resource for education and lifelong learning.

  • In 2004, the Neighborhood Story Project was founded by Rachel Breunlin and Abram Himelstein as a book-making project based in the neighborhoods of New Orleans. The NSP is a 501 C3 tax-exempt organization in partnership with the University of New Orleans that works with writers to create books about their communities.

  • The Story Arts website has been created by storyteller & author Heather Forest and teaches elementary school students how to collect family histories: interview questions, tips, and links to other helpful websites.

  • The National Day of Listening is a new national holiday started by StoryCorps in 2008. On the day after Thanksgiving, StoryCorps asks all Americans to take an hour to record an interview with a loved one, using recording equipment that is readily available in most homes, such as computers, iPhones, and tape recorders, along with StoryCorps’ free Do-It-Yourself Instruction Guide (PDF).

  • The Veterans’ History Project at the Library of Congress features some excellent guidelines for interviewing people and collecting their stories.

  • We Are California: Stories of Immigration and Change is the first-ever website devoted to the history of California immigration and migration, and the first-ever website where Californians can tell their own coming-to-California stories.

Websites for Additional Resources

The following websites may also be helpful to project directors contemplating community issues, potential partner relationships with local organizations, and generally planning their Building Common Ground series:

  • Americans for the Arts is the leading arts advocacy organization in the U.S. and leads the program “Animating Democracy” that fosters arts and cultural activities that promote civic dialogue. Animating Democracy helps to build capacity of artists and cultural organizations involved in a wide sphere of civic engagement work, including arts-based civic dialogue, through an integrated set of programs and services.

  • AmericaSpeaks is a neutral advocate for public participation. They play a unique role in the policymaking process by serving as a non-partisan convenor of forums that provide the public with an opportunity to make decisions about important issues without fear of manipulation or bias.

  • The Charter for Compassion website offers visitors an opportunity to affirm the charter, learn about partner organizations, read the latest news of the Charter, join the Charter community, and find resources such as guides, videos, curriculum, and more. The Charter for Compassion is a document that transcends religious, ideological, and national differences. Supported by leading thinkers from many traditions, the Charter calls on us to activate the Golden Rule around the world.

  • Choose Civility is an ongoing community-wide initiative, led by Howard County Library, to position Howard County as a model of civility. The project intends to enhance respect, empathy, consideration and tolerance in Howard County, MD.

  • CIRCLE (The Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement) conducts research on civic education in schools, colleges, and community settings and on young Americans’ voting and political participation, service, activism, media use, and other forms of civic engagement. It is based at the Jonathan M. Tisch College of Citizenship and Public Service at Tufts University.

  • The Civil Conversations Project –ideas and tools for healing our fractured civic spaces– is a series of radio shows and an online resource for beginning new conversations in families and communities. How do we speak the questions we don't know how to ask each other? Can we find ways to bridge gulfs between us about politics, morality, and life itself? Can we do that even while we continue to disagree, passionately? How is technology playing into all this, and how can we shape it? This series features seven voices of wisdom, poetry, and practicality: poet Elizabeth Alexander, philosopher Anthony Appiah, abortion rights activist Frances Kissling, Evangelical educator Richard Mouw, civil rights veteran Vincent Harding, MIT psychologist and technologist Sherry Turkle, and naturalist and writer Terry Tempest Williams. In conversation with Krista Tippett, they model new kinds of conversation and relationship with difference. They offer ideas and tools for healing our fractured civic spaces.

  • The goal of The Civility Institute is to encourage a multi-dimensional study and discussion of civility and its complex and powerful role in human relations.

  • The Compassionate Action Network is a network of self-organizing groups who share a common vision for a compassionate world. Their mission is to build a global network for self-organizing groups to connect, collaborate, and take action to awaken compassion in our children, ourselves, and our world. In 2010, CAN launched the Campaign for Compassionate Cities.

  • The mission of the International Institute for Compassionate Cities is to support the mission of the Compassionate Action Network (“CAN”), support those moving forward to establish a culture of compassion in their cities and regions, and to further the knowledge, value and embodiment of compassion. We achieve our mission through collaborative relationships and heart-felt, innovative, practical and cost-effective educational and public information programs.

  • The Cultural Cognition Project has an explicit normative objective: to identify processes of democratic decision making by which society can resolve culturally grounded differences in belief in a manner that is both congenial to persons of diverse cultural outlooks and consistent with sound public policymaking.

  • The Difficult Dialogues Initiative, a grant program led by the Ford Foundation, funded programs at 16 universities and colleges that promoted new strategies for creating open and civil discussion of sensitive topics between students. The website contains past programs that librarians may wish to read about and perhaps use as a springboard for their own programming ideas. The resources onsite include annotated bibliographies, book lists, articles, websites, presentations, articles, and essays which all serve as a great overview issues related to using dialogue for conflict resolution.

  • Engage! Picturing America through Civic Engagement was a pilot program targeting young adult audiences through dynamic discussions that utilize the visual arts as springboards to civic engagement. This pilot project builds on the National Endowment for the Humanities’ art initiative, Picturing America, through the development of supplemental resources that utilize the visual arts as a springboard to civic engagement. The objective for these resources is be to deepen participants’ knowledge and appreciation of American art and its relation to American history and civic life, and to contribute to the development of informed and discerning voters. Through the thematic selection of visual arts resources as points of engagement, participants are led in facilitated discussions on and interactions with the depth and history of American civic life. Resources have been specifically designed for opt-in youth audiences in public library settings. Project funding was provided by the Searle Funds at the Chicago Community Trust and from the Terra Foundation for American Art.

  • A national leader in the field of civic participation and community change, Everyday Democracy helps people of different backgrounds and views talk and work together to solve problems and create communities that work for everyone. Particular emphasis on racism and how structural racism and other structural inequalities affect the problems they address.

  • The Fetzer Institute website contains a wealth of resources developed through their many programs and convenings. It's Resource Database is a rich online library of projects, partners, videos, publications, talks, research, and more. Libraries may search this database for programming ideas and inspiration and materials for Building Common Ground programming.

  • The Greater Good Science Center studies the psychology, sociology, and neuroscience of well-being, and teaches skills that foster a thriving, resilient, and compassionate society.Based at the University of California, Berkeley, the GGSC is unique in its commitment to both science and practice: not only do we sponsor groundbreaking scientific research into social and emotional well-being, we help people apply this research to their personal and professional lives.

  • A grassroots, non-partisan, non-profit organization that is building civility in a society that seems tilted toward uncivil speech and actions, the Institute for Civility does not endorse any political candidate, nor take a position on any issue. The institute is about process, not positions. Not a think tank, and not a watch dog organization, they serve as a catalyst for change.

  • The Institute of Interfaith Dialog is a non-profit organization whose primary goal is to help bring together the communities in order to promote compassion, cooperation, partnership and community service through interfaith dialog and conversation. The IID is dedicated to encouraging the study of the global communities’ spiritual traditions from the vantage point of respect, accuracy, and appreciation. Toward these goals the Institute organizes academic and grass roots activities such as conferences, panels, symposia, interfaith family dinners and cultural exchange trips.

  • Dr. P.M. Forni, a professor at Johns Hopkins University, co-founded the Johns Hopkins Civility Project in 1997. An aggregation of academic and community outreach activities, the JHCP aimed at assessing the significance of civility, manners and politeness in contemporary society. The JHCP has been reconstituted as The Civility Initiative at Johns Hopkins, which Dr. Forni now directs. This Web site is designed to introduce Dr. Forni’s work on civility and to offer links to related material.

  • National Issues Forums bring people together to talk about important issues. They range from small study circles held in peoples’ homes to large community gatherings modeled on New England town meetings. Each forum focuses on a specific issue such as illegal drugs, Social Security, or juvenile crime.

  • Public Agenda’s mission is to improve democratic problem solving. The nonpartisan mission is pursued through research, engagement and communications that bridge the divisions and disconnects among leaders and publics so that sustainable solutions to tough challenges can be achieved. By doing so, they seek to contribute to a democracy in which problem solving triumphs over gridlock and inertia, and where public policy reflects the deliberations and values of the citizenry.

  • The Public Conversations Project brings disputants together for the kind of dialogue that shifts relationships from ones of mistrust, defense, withdrawal, or attack to those of curiosity, connection, and compassionate understanding of differences. PCP does not seek to shift people’s core beliefs and commitments around the issues that have divided them. PCP encourages more participation in democracy through constructive discussion of important and divisive public issues.

  • Search for Common Ground is an open source organization. All materials, publications and evaluations are available online. They bring proven practices in conflict transformation to leaders, organizations and communities in Africa, Asia, Europe the Middle East and North America.

  • Stanford's Center for Compassion and Altruism Research and Education (CCARE) is striving to create a community of scholars and researchers, including neuroscientists, psychologists, educators and philosophical and contemplative thinkers around the study of compassion. Drawing from such varied disciplines - from etiological approaches that examine the evolutionary roots of compassion to skills training programs for strengthening compassion to neuroscientific studies of the brain mechanisms that support compassion as well as the 'warm glow' feelings that reinforce helping others, CCARE is working to gain a deep understanding of compassion and its associated human behaviors in all its richness.