Bridging the Gap of Political Polarization in America
The JAMS Foundation is a nonprofit founded by JAMS whose goal it is to have a lasting and substantial impact on dispute resolution worldwide. The Foundation provides financial assistance for conflict resolution initiatives with national and international reach, in addition to sharing its dispute resolution experience and expertise for the benefit of the public interest.
The JAMS Foundation has presented the 12th Annual Warren Knight Distinguished Service Award, along with a $25,000 grant, to Braver Angels so that it can continue its efforts in depolarizing America.
We asked Ciaran O’Connor, chief marketing officer of Braver Angels, a few questions about the organization, how it came to be and its future goals.
Ciaran O’Connor, chief marketing officer of Braver Angels
Can you tell us more about Braver Angels and how it was created?
Braver Angels—formerly known as Better Angels—is the nation’s largest grassroots organization dedicated to bringing liberals and conservatives together, not to "meet in the middle," but to foster trust, move beyond stereotypes and coexist in public life.
Braver Angels was born in response to the crisis of political polarization in the wake of the 2016 election. We began by bringing together a group of [Donald] Trump voters and [Hillary] Clinton voters in early 2017 for a series of workshops designed to help people talk with, rather than simply at or about, one another. In the summer of 2017, we ran our first bus tour, holding workshops in 10 states and planting the seeds for local Braver Angels alliances.
Since then, we have grown our presence to all 50 states and attracted over 11,000 members. We have expanded our programming to include skills trainings, “depolarizing within” workshops and online debates that help Americans discuss our most divisive issues with passion, not vitriol. We have also developed Braver Angels Media to model constructive cross-partisan dialogue and provide an alternative to partisan media outlets.
Braver Angels Workshop
What are the main goals for Braver Angels?
At its heart, Braver Angels is a citizens’ organization uniting red and blue Americans in a working alliance to depolarize America. Our mission is the following:
- To try to understand other people’s points of view, even if we don’t agree with them
- To engage with people who may not share our views, looking for common ground and ways to work together
- To support principles that bring us together rather than divide us
How did you get involved with Braver Angels?
After working in Democratic politics for several years, including serving on the [Barack] Obama and Clinton presidential campaigns, I wanted to find ways to bring Americans together to better understand each other in a climate of recrimination. I believe in the work of Braver Angels because it allows people to bridge the political divide without compromising their values and beliefs.
How does JAMS fit into Braver Angels’ initiatives?
As a national leader in the field of dispute resolution, JAMS is a key partner when it comes to not only supporting our work and raising awareness of its importance, but also offering invaluable expertise, networks and counsel.
What are some of your upcoming plans for Braver Angels?
Our newest initiative, With Malice Toward None, will help individuals, citizen organizations and communities of faith come together for reconciliation after the November elections. With Malice Toward None is guided by the following pledge:
“Regardless of how the election turns out, I will not hold hate, disdain, or ridicule for those who voted differently from me. Whether I am pleased or upset about the outcome, I will seek to understand the concerns and aspirations of those who voted differently and will look for opportunities to work with people with whom I disagree.”
Is there anything else you want people to know?
Braver Angels is truly a grassroots organization, and our membership is only $1 per month. Please consider joining our movement to depolarize America in this period of heightened division! You can learn more about Braver Angels at www.braverangels.org.
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