Pictured Here: Students participating in a Narrative 4 story exchange learn how to find common ground

Bridge Divides and Build Respect for One Another

In an era of bitter divides, how can we build bridges to those who think differently than us?

The Challenge By The Numbers

48% of Americans don't trust their neighbors.
67% of Americans are exhausted by divisions.
1-in-2 Americans report feeling alone and socially isolated.

Healing the division in our country starts by looking for the common ground we share as people. That takes courage, and courage is contagious.


Finding common ground to break public policy barriers

For Elias Garcia, the rise of polarization is more than just politics—it’s personal. He was born in Mexico and brought to the United States when he was one year old. Both his parents were in college at the time, and they wanted a better future for Elias. He’s now a student at Grand Canyon University and wants to contribute to America by starting a business.

Elias is a Dreamer—one of millions who were brought to this country as children and have since become integral members of our society. Today’s political failures mean their lives and futures remain frighteningly uncertain.

“There are Dreamers going to school not knowing if they will be given the permission to work,” Elias recently said. Such barriers reduce their ability to contribute to America.

Nearly 90 percent of Americans support permanent legal status for Dreamers—including Republican and Democratic leaders. But Congress has failed to act.

In February 2019, The LIBRE Initiative—which is part of the Stand Together community—stood with Elias and 50 other Dreamers and community leaders as they spoke on the steps of the U.S. Capitol. This event was supported by groups with a wide range of perspectives—including UnidosUS, FWD.us, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the National Immigration Forum, and more—to demonstrate that a majority of Americans are united on this issue.

Dreamers and allies unite at the U.S. Capitol to advocate for reform that 90% of Americans support

Nearly 90 percent of Americans support permanent legal status for Dreamers—including Republican and Democratic leaders. But Congress has failed to act.

This approach—uniting with anyone to do right, even if we disagree on other issues—has produced major reforms that are improving people’s lives.

Over the last year alone the Stand Together community has helped pass many reforms with support from all sides, including historic criminal justice reform that helps people who made a mistake earn a second chance at life, regulatory reforms that allow terminally ill patients to access potentially life-saving treatments, and reforms to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs that benefit former service members.

When people look past their differences to find common ground, we can make progress together, even in Washington, D.C. Can we also repair strained relationships in our local communities?


The first steps toward change are tolerance and peace

Bishop Omar Jahwar knows this firsthand. He’s seen communities alienated from law enforcement, and torn apart by deadly gang violence. Bishop Omar recalls, “I can’t tell you how many funerals I have done of young people that I looked at on Monday—people who were alive and well and breathing—and I had to bury them on Saturday.”

So he decided to do something to change that.

He founded Urban Specialists in 1998 to bridge the most harmful divides in his hometown of Dallas by getting people to listen to and respect one another. In 2000, he negotiated the first truce between the rivaling Bloods and Crips gangs, and his team has since served 17,000 people through programs that help keep schools and communities safe.

Now Bishop Omar is taking on one of his toughest challenges: rebuilding trust between police officers and the people they serve.

In January 2018, Bishop Omar brought together the families of Alton Sterling, who was killed by police in Louisiana in 2016, and the families of Brad Garafola and Montrell Jackson, two police officers killed in retaliation. At an event with 1,500 people in attendance with a diversity of perspectives, Bishop Omar facilitated a productive conversation between the victims’ families for the first time—demonstrating that even in the most difficult circumstances, we still have much in common on which to build.

Video: See how Urban Specialists empowers former gang leaders to restore peace and safety to their community

“This is a hard moment in U.S. history. But as Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. said, ‘we can live together as brothers or die alone as fools.’”
– Bishop Omar Jahwar, founder of Urban Specialists

Urban Specialists is one of 141 local groups supported by the Stand Together community. Social entrepreneurs like Bishop Omar teach us that when people come together in mutual respect, our country can bridge even the most dangerous and tragic divides.

United local communities will go a long way toward bridging divides in America. But how can we build bridges between communities across the country—among people who might rarely interact face-to-face?


Stories of radical empathy bridge the urban/rural divide

Lisa Consiglio’s team at Narrative 4 has come up with a unique solution to our crisis of social polarization—to create what they call “radical empathy” even amongst the unlikeliest of groups.

Narrative 4 worked with students at a rural high school in Kentucky and another in the South Bronx—two different worlds. The two student groups met online through Narrative 4’s virtual story exchange program to discuss the social and economic differences between their hometowns. They shared their own personal stories with each other, then met in person to tell their partner’s story to a live audience as if it were their own.

As Lauren explained, she’d been concerned about seemingly insurmountable divisions in society: “If you would have asked me what was possible in this world a year ago… I’d been like, well, nothing’s possible because this world’s in shambles.” After finding commonalities with people from different walks of life, those challenges don’t seem as daunting.

Narrative 4 is just one of dozens of organizations in the Stand Together community that are developing innovative strategies to expand collaboration across divides.

Students from Kentucky and the South Bronx learn about each others’ views and experiences and discover the power of empathy

“Since I’ve been introduced to Narrative 4, there is literally nothing that I can think of right now that comes to my mind that I think about as impossible.”
– Lauren, a student from Kentucky

Finding common ground to drive reform. Building trust in neighborhoods—and across great distances. These are important steps towards bridging our divides. But in an age of economic tension, can business play a more constructive role?


Building a business culture of inclusion, respect, and service

Too often there is a tense relationship between employees and business leaders. Employees sometimes feel like means to an end—rather than valued teammates.

Kevin Lavelle decided to take this issue head-on as an entrepreneur. In 2012, he founded Mizzen+Main, the first men’s clothing company that put performance fabrics in business attire. “Everyone told me this was impossible,” recalls Kevin. But his startup is beating the odds, in part by embracing a work culture that respects employees as value-creating equals on the team.

Kevin first attended a Stand Together Summit in 2017, and he found that his approach to business had a lot in common with ours. Mizzen+Main benefited from our management philosophy, which emphasizes empowering employees to be entrepreneurial and innovative to create real value for customers and society. This philosophy helped his team grow beyond their already considerable success.

Now, Kevin has joined the team full-time at Stand Together, where he will focus on fostering a culture of principled entrepreneurship within the business community. These efforts will help ensure that businesses succeed in a way that benefits all involved—customers, employees, and society as a whole.

Kevin Lavelle and the team at Mizzen+Main

“We are all in this together. When we respect every person in the company as a valued and valuable part of a team, everyone benefits. When our team owns our responsibility as a business to create value in society, our society is better off.”
– Kevin Lavelle, founder of Mizzen+Main

Kevin is just one of the 700 business leaders in the Stand Together community—who employ a combined two million people.

By building a new culture of principled entrepreneurship, we can create an economy built on mutual respect and success by contributing to the lives of others.

You can help meet the challenge

Finding common ground on policies. Healing divisions in communities. Building empowering workplaces. Connecting students from different backgrounds. These bottom-up efforts started with one person, then engaged hundreds, and now along with many partners, they are scaling across the country.

By standing together and approaching the challenge from different angles, we can bridge divides so that every person can rise.

There’s still a long way to go. What role can you play in driving more progress—and can Stand Together help you greater your good?SM Find out how we can help you launch or grow your own organization or support the most effective groups in the country.

Greater your good.

If you’re a social entrepreneur looking to start a new venture or want to increase your impact and effectiveness, find out how we can help connect you with the necessary support and resources.

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