The Common Ground project was introduced in Lansing, Illinois, in 2020. The year-long program is designed to give people of different ethnic backgrounds opportunities to engage in thoughtful conversation with each other.
What is unique about Common Ground is that it combines the structure of a program with the flexibility that relationships need in order to flourish. The program helps match participants who are different from each other, and the expectation is that they will meet at least monthly. But the participants decide when and where their monthly meetings will happen. Some meet for morning coffee before work. Some meet in each other’s homes so their kids can play together while they are talking. Some meet for supper at a local restaurant. Some go for walks together. The monthly meeting schedule is determined by the participants.
The program also helps participants engage in meaningful conversation by providing a list of conversation-starters each month, five or six questions the partners discuss together at their monthly meetings. When you enroll in the program, you are added to the Common Ground email list and will receive new questions on the first of each month.
Common Grounders are invited to occasional large-group meetings that give people a chance to:
- Share ideas for places to meet
- Discuss scheduling conflicts and other frustrations
- Learn from each other
- Meet other Common Grounders
- Be encouraged by the large-group conversation
But the heart of the program is the individual meetings between partners. Everything else is designed to support those meetings.
Want to sign up?
Use the Common Ground form below to tell us about yourself and add your email to the list:
Want to learn more?
The Lansing Journal has been documenting the Common Ground program since it launched in Lansing in August of 2020. The link below will open up that library of Common Ground articles:
- Common Ground news category
Want to see what we talk about?
Common Ground participants arrange their own monthly meetings with their partners. When participants subscribe to the Common Ground mailing list, they receive a list of conversation-starters on the first of each month. Those monthly conversation-starters are available below as downloadable PDFs.
New participants start with the Ground Rules and Intro questions:
- Ground Rules (PDF)
- Intro questions — for your first meeting with your partner (PDF)
As you continue meeting with your partner, choose from any of the conversation-starters below. They are named by topic and can be used in any order:
- Experiences with Race (PDF)
- Family and Community (PDF)
- Health and Trust (PDF)
- Death and Life (PDF)
- Holidays and Traditions (PDF)
- Food and Family (PDF)
- School and Work (PDF)
- Affirmative Actions (PDF)
- Past and Future (PDF)
- Community Institutions (PDF)
- Religion and Politics (PDF)
- Pride and Culture (PDF)
- Summer Traditions (PDF)
More PDFs will be added to this Common Ground library as they are developed.
Common Ground background
Common Ground was launched by Living Springs Community Church (Glenwood, Illinois), in alignment with their core value of being “intentionally inclusive.” The program was first known as Breakfast Club, and the concept was initially developed by CURE, a Chicago-based racial equity group that is no longer in existence. The Lansing Journal sponsors the Common Ground program in Lansing because it aligns with our mission of Building Community.