The truth is, most of us want common-ground solutions.
Two-thirds of Americans are fed up with the partisan gamesmanship that has resulted in a dysfunctional government. Because stories of political battles draw more readers than stories of political compromise, we tend to think everyone wants their side to “win” at any cost.
But that just isn’t true.
In fact, two-thirds of Americans – regardless of ideology – want to see their allies listen to the other side and compromise to achieve solutions in which we all win, not just the political majority.
In other words, Americans want solutions that create common ground.
CGC inspires and motivates the public to find common ground and reduce incivility and polarization for a stronger nation. We do this by demonstrating how influential people of opposing views can unexpectedly find agreement without compromising core values. We provide innovative content and tools that empower individuals and consequently, their political leaders to do the same.
How it all started
Often, our friendships change and evolve as we grow, attend college, switch jobs, and move to new communities. But some friendships persist. Such is the case with Bruce Bond and Erik Olsen, childhood friends who grew tighter during their school years and remained close as they built families and careers.
While they pursued divergent careers (Erik in financial services and Bruce in information technology), they would often spend time discussing a shared concern: the state of politics in America. When their families vacationed together in August 2009, they decided to translate those concerns into action. They believed there had been a significant shift in tone in the country, particularly since President Barack Obama’s election the prior year, and they wanted to do something about it.
That was the beginning of the Common Ground Committee.
The purpose was simple: To find opportunities to advance policies for the good of the nation by building on a foundation accepted, if not promoted, by both Republicans and Democrats.
In their spare time, Bruce and Erik set up a board of directors and began planning their first event, which would be held in February 2010 and feature Rep. Chris Shays (R-Conn.) in a talk titled, “Finding Common Ground on the Government’s Role in the Nation’s Economy.” That event served as a springboard for growth, partnership, and change.
The Common Ground Committee began as purely an event-driven nonprofit for its first years, usually convening one or two events per year. Speakers have included a pair of former secretaries of state (Condoleezza Rice and John Kerry), former members of Congress, retired Army Gen. David Petraeus, former U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice, national media figures, and advisors to presidents. In every case, the guests worked to advance the mission by finding common ground on key policy issues, including foreign relations, the racial divide, taxes, and much more.
Early on in the process, the Common Ground Committee developed a key partnership with the Christian Science Monitor and its Editor John Yemma. Now retired as editor but still an influential columnist, John has been an outstanding event moderator and the Monitor, who continues to provide moderators for CGC events, remains an important ally in the search for common ground.
What we’re doing now
Having established the Common Ground Committee as an influential player in the growing movement to reduce polarization and improve the American political system, Bruce and Erik raised enough financial support to devote themselves full-time to the mission by 2018.
And with the new funding came new people and new initiatives. The Common Ground Committee has expanded its staff and now produces a podcast and the influential Common Ground Scorecard, a unique tool to help voters determine which candidates for national office truly want to work across the aisle for the betterment of the nation.
We envision a nation no longer encumbered by the anger and polarization that prevents us from moving forward on issues that matter.
How do we find common ground?
The Common Ground Committee has three goals:
- Give hope and inspiration that we, as a nation, can work together to make progress on important issues. Those events and podcasts double as opportunities to not only study the issues but also to look for common ground and to demonstrate that, yes, it’s possible to work across partisan lines on behalf of our fellow Americans.
- Educate people on the issues. This is where we started and remains the core of what we do – bringing together, in person (through live events) and virtually (with podcasts) to learn how we can advance critical issues such as the economy, gun violence, health care, and more.
- Help citizens hold elected officials accountable. The next step in the Common Ground Committee’s evolution is moving beyond education and inspiration to action. Through our Common Ground Scorecard, voters can determine which candidates are serious about working across party lines on behalf of their constituents– and which put party over country.