By Bri Oldham, Cleveland Foundation Equity Communications and Engagement Fellow
Are you ready for the supersized celebration of the fifth anniversary of Common Ground? If not, by the time you’re done reading this, you’ll be a #CG2021 semi-pro. Let’s go down the list; first things first, conversations will take place over two weeks from July 16 through July 30. Hosts can pick any day and time between these dates to have their events. If there’s one thing I’ve heard the most about last year it’s that being flexible is key. This is the idea behind giving hosts more time to plan their events and support others going on as well. Get ready for fun, virtual and safe, socially-distanced outdoor events! State and federal guidelines will be monitored closely, as things may change if the local environment changes.
This year’s theme is Growing Common Ground: People, Place, Shared Power. Each year, Common Ground has a theme. As a way to celebrate five years, participants are invited to take a look back at Common Grounds past to help imagine and plan for the community’s future. Though hosts are encouraged to use theme-inspired conversation questions, there is no right or wrong way to Common Ground. Sample questions are offered to help people think about the conversation they would like to host or participate in. Examples for this year’s theme could be:
- PEOPLE: “How can we strengthen the connections between us to build community?”
- PLACE: “Why does place matter?”
- SHARED POWER: “What would it look like to share power here?”
Whether this is your first time getting involved or your fifth, there are several ways to participate. Should you decide hosting is right for you, the first step is to sign up for a Conversation Training. There, assistance is provided to help develop your conversation and agenda. Becoming a host for Common Ground is a commitment, and in doing so, you are choosing to bring people together in a conversation that matters. However, please know you don’t do it alone. The Common Ground team at the Cleveland Foundation and the partners at Neighbor Up are available to help build, guide, and grow your event. Leading up to it, there are tons of resources offered as support as well. Social media promotion and an individual registration link for your event are just two of the resources we offer to hosts.
You can also choose to be a conversation facilitator. Common Ground’s partners at Neighbor Up train hundreds of hosts and facilitators each year on how to build and manage connective conversations. These trainings are free to the community and are offered throughout the lead-up to Common Ground. If hosting is not for you this year, you can get involved in another great way. Hosted in partnership with Neighbor Up, these trainings focus on the Common Ground conversation structure and teach best practices for encouraging inclusive, civil discussion among small groups. We request that all hosts as well as volunteer conversation facilitators (if you have them) attend one training. Find a training that works for your schedule and register here.
Want to know how else to find Common Ground? You can also opt to just sit back and relax and attend one (or a few) conversations in and around your community. In order to get a feel for the Common Ground experience, you can attend any of the pre-events taking place over the months leading up to July 16. Learn more and sign up to attend a pre-event here.
Also new for the fifth anniversary is the new website – https://www.commongroundcle.org/ – home to all things Common Ground and a new and improved place for hosts to manage their events. Many tools are new and improved this year! The host registration and event management process is faster and easier using quick forms and personalized links.
Host registration is open now and hosts are gearing up to meet the first big deadline of June 2. That’s the day promotion of Common Ground registration begins. This means the public will be made aware of all the cool conversations taking place and encouraged to sign up to attend. We want to make sure as many hosts as possible have their events ready to start taking registrations. Host registration is open until July 9.
Once Common Ground is over, there are still many ways to make connections and continue valuable community work. The partners at Neighbor Up will be accepting applications for Action Grants to support Common Ground-inspired projects from July 17 through August 20. Check back to our Take Action page for more after June 2.
Now that you know pretty much all there is to know about Common Ground, you’re excited right? You may also have a few questions. If you do have any, or just want to learn more, please email the team at CommonGround@clevefdn.org.