The Call to Connect program (run by Avenues to Wellness). The goal: Help people who are feeling isolated and lonely by bringing them human connection over the phone. The method: A CTC participant is matched with a buddy who “listen[s] in a non-judgmental way” over phone calls. People interested in receiving or giving help through CTC call the program coordinator, who conducts a “brief orientation and interview,” then “[matches] you with a CTC ‘buddy.'” Audience & scope: The CTC program is focused on the local area of Willits and the surrounding Mendocino County. Associations: The CTC program is run by Avenues to Wellness, which “facilitates community wellness in Willits, California, and the surrounding areas.” Avenues to Wellness is a program of the Frank R. Howard Foundation. (Last updated 1/31/2021)
Re:store Justice California. The problem: The United States’ system of justice focuses on punishing criminals by isolating them from their communities. This may temporarily prevent them from doing further harm, but it doesn’t resolve or heal the damage already done to victims, communities, and offenders. The goal: “Provide healing to survivors, restore responsible parties to their families and communities, and prevent future harms to interpersonal relationships and communities.” The method: Restorative Dialogues, “a process in which the victim/survivor of a crime, or the surviving family members, and the person responsible for hard meet face-to face in a safe and secure setting… The primary objective is for the survivor to feel heard, and for the responsible party to fully understand the effects of what he or she has done.” An episode of the podcast Ear Hustle features a restorative dialogue between two people who have been on opposite sides of the sex trafficking experience. (Last updated 2/1/2021)
Prison of Peace The goal: “Reduce violence and promote peaceful conflict resolution among prison inmates.” Prison of Peace tries to make long-term, sustainable institutional change toward this goal. The method: Inmates go through sequential levels of training. In the first level, inmates learn perspectives and skills of Restorative Justice, Essential Problem Solving Skills (based on the book People Skills by Robert Bolton), Peace Circles, and Moral Disengagement (presumably based on the book by Albert Bandura). Then the second level teaches mediation skills. At the third and fourth levels, inmates are trained to be trainers who can then bring other inmates through the program. Prison of Peace believes that people with these skills can become healing parts of their community, continuously improving the experiences of everyone else in the institution, which is part of the reason why Prison of Peace prioritizes training for people serving longer sentences. Associations: Of the team members, I’m only familiar with Doug Noll, who wrote the excellent book De-escalate. (Last updated 2/2/2021)
Braver Angels, “Building a House United.” The problem: “Affective political polarization (not only disagreement on issues but personal contempt and distrust) has been growing between us for at least 25 years… today, there is evidence to suggest that we are now as polarized as we have been since the Civil War.” The goal: Political depolarization and civic health. The method: Braver Angels gathers groups of 12-20 people representing both sides of the political spectrum. Those who self-identify as “reds” sit across from those who self-identify as “blues.” A trained facilitator then guides the two sides through a structured discussion, giving each side a chance to talk about their values, the negative stereotypes about their own side, what they don’t understand about the other side, etc. The process is intended to help people see the humanity underneath the other side’s political identification. The brand: I think their branding is the obvious smart move. Formerly “Better Angels,” they use all kinds of Lincoln quotes and imagery. There is perhaps no other political figure in United States history with more bipartisan admiration than Lincoln. Braver Angels uses him as a cornerstone for building a common language of values and rights. Other resources: They also released a documentary that shows one of their group workshops, and run a podcast. (Last updated 2/3/2021)
Weave: The Social Fabric Project The problem: “35% of Americans are chronically lonely and 50% say no one knows them well. Suicide is rising. Violence, hatred and political gridlock seem normal.” The causes of the problem: The values of tribalism, individualism, and meritocracy. The goal: “Shift our culture from one that values achievement and individual success to one that finds value in deep relationships and community success.” The method: Their website’s content is focused on encouraging individual action. They also say they find individuals who build communities and support those individuals, but I’m not sure how they support those individuals. Associations: Weave was founded by David Brooks, whom I admire very much. You can see his shockingly honest TED Talk about why he founded Weave here.
(Last updated 2/3/2021)
Center for Humane Technology The problem: “Tech platforms make billions of dollars keeping us clicking, scrolling, and sharing. Just like a tree is worth more as lumber and a whale is worth more dead than alive—in the attention extraction economy a human is worth more when we are depressed, outraged, polarized, and addicted.” The threat: “This attention extraction economy is accelerating the mass degradation of our collective capacity to solve global threats, from pandemics to inequality to climate change. If we can’t make sense of the world while making ever more consequential choices, a growing ledger of harms will destroy the futures of our children, democracy and truth itself.” The goal: “align technology with humanity’s best interests” – in other words, create “humane technology,” which: • Is values-centric and designed with awareness that technology is never neutral, and is inevitably shaped by its surrounding socioeconomic environment • Is sensitive to human nature and doesn’t exploit our innate physiological vulnerabilities • Narrows the gap between the powerful and the marginalized instead of increasing that gap • Reduces greed and hatred instead of perpetuating them • Helps to build shared reality instead of dividing us with fragmenting realities • Accounts for and minimizes the externalities that it generates in the world The method: CHT identifies 3 “levers of change.” They are “Educating the Public” through media like The Social Dilemma and the excellent podcast Your Undivided Attention. They “Informing Policy Change” by “Briefing policymakers in confidential sessions and public testimony,” and Supporting Technologists “through training, events, conversations, and advising executives”.
(Last updated 2/11/2021)
Asteroids Club The problem: America faces big problems “which are hurtling toward us through space and time at an alarming rate of speed.” But the distribution of attention to those problems is politically polarized. Liberals, for example, focus on the threats of climate change and rising inequality to the exclusion of the threats conservatives see, while conservatives focus on the threats of entitlement spending and family breakdown to the exclusion of the threats liberals see. We are separated by our beliefs and would be stronger together. The goal: Cooperative political dialogue, thought, and action (practical political depolarization). The method: Gather as few as two people, or as many as 8 to 15 people, :who disagree politically but are willing to mutually acknowledge that the other side may see some real threats more clearly than does one’s own side.” Hold a “non-debate on America’s biggest problems.” Acknowledge that these other people may have an easier The motto: ‘I’ll help you deflect your asteroid, if you help me deflect mine.’” The sad: it looks like their last blog posts were in 2014. The founder, Jonathan Haidt, has gone on to do many otherinterestingthings in the realm of social psychology and the interdependence of politically opposite parties. My question: It looks like The Asteroids Club website is defunct. What happened? And, more broadly, how does one create a civic-renewal organization that can sustain itself while making a positive impact? (Last updated 2/12/2021)