2020 Common Ground History

Everyone wants a seat at the table. Common Ground offers the ability to take a seat – or to set the table for others – and participate in community conversations designed to encourage and foster new connections. Common Ground challenges individuals, organizations and community leaders to build, join and share conversations across our region each summer.  

Developed by the Cleveland Foundation in partnership with nonprofit and civic organizations across the region, Common Ground is focused on building connections, valuing all voices, and sharing ideas on how to move Greater Cleveland forward. This series celebrates the 5th year of Common Ground by looking back at what our community created each year during this event. Check out all of these Common Ground recaps and learn more about how you can join in, here.

A shift no one predicted

In response to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and the national reckoning on systemic racism in America that had been at the forefront for several weeks leading up to Common Ground 2020, the team adapted last year to give existing registered and multi-year hosts the flexibility to take action on the issues that matter to them and their communities.

Standing in solidarity

Over Memorial Day weekend, a police officer murdered George Floyd and people across the nation rose up in protest. Here in Cleveland, thousands of people participated in peaceful demonstrations organized by Black Lives Matter Cleveland to lift up the stories of those killed by police and to show solidarity with the 96 Cleveland families who have lost a loved one to police violence in the city.

Because of the social climate at that time, the Common Ground team felt a sense of urgency to meet participants where they were in the shared new normal. For some, the next step may have been taking immediate action or providing a service in an area of urgent need. Others may have felt that connective conversations were more important than ever.

A year of change and adaptation

Common Ground’s strength is always the incredible group of community leaders who choose to host conversations each year. Changes to the 2020 Common Ground structure were made in recognition of the dedication of our Common Ground hosts and their deep knowledge of our community’s most pressing needs.

The changes to Common Ground’s traditional format focused on keeping its network of community advocates strong. The environment of pandemic, economic distress, and civil uprising posed unique challenges to the entire community, and Common Ground aimed to respond with flexibility and proactive support. Part of that proactive support was to transform the usual event support stipend Common Ground issued to hosts into a one-time $500 support to all registered hosts. In doing so, $50,000 in funds were disbursed to over 115 community members who have hosted Common Ground in the past or were planning to do so in 2020. These funds were not attached to any project requirements and hosts were able to use them for their immediate needs – Common Ground or otherwise.

New hosts who wanted to hold a Common Ground conversation but had not already registered by June 1 received planning and promotional support for virtual Common Ground events held through October. Due to the federal and state recommendations on physical distancing, we requested that no in-person Common Ground conversations were held. Continued planning support for events and action projects was provided via webinar and virtual meetings in partnership with Neighborhood Connections. Promotional support for events and projects was also available for all hosts. Our partners at Neighborhood Connections also awarded grants to 10 projects supporting Census work in the community for a total of $24,100 as a part of our Common Ground small grants program.

Partnerships continue to flourish

Common Ground retained strong partner relationships with conveners and changemakers across the region during this pivotal time, including the Tri-C Conflict Resolution and Peace Studies Youth Symposium, Cleveland Leadership Center Advanced Leadership Institute, Census 2020, and Cuyahoga County. Gatherings occurred how and when they could, with more than 25 hosts facilitating conversations on topics ranging from parenting kids doing remote learning to the impact of census 2020 on college students in the region.

How you can get involved

Residents can get involved in Common Ground by hosting a conversation or participating in one or more events. For more details on host registration, trainings, and event calendars, visit commongroundcle.org or email us at commonground@clevefdn.org.