Leaning across differences make us strong

Small Towns

2020 was a difficult year for everyone, for a multitude of reasons. Of the many challenges that came to national attention throughout the year, perhaps the most apparent was the lack of civil discourse among those with different identities, beliefs, and political affiliations.

At the Center for Rural Affairs, we have always believed our differences make us strong, but only when we can engage with those differences civilly and with our best intentions. 

While this can be a challenge, we believe it is well worth the effort, and for this reason, the Center will host free “Civity” workshops to practice intentional, genuine, and respectful conversation across difference.

Civity is the idea of purposefully engaging in relationships of respect and empathy with others who are different. This helps community leaders transform the dialogue in their towns to understand and celebrate differences—across race, class, culture, and politics. 

The goal of Civity, as it grows, is to transition from a “we/they” mindset to a “we all belong” mindset.

Using the Civity Method, we explore engaging in deeper conversation across difference with civility and genuine curiosity. When people have the sense that we are in this together—when they feel confident reaching out to and connecting with others—differences become springboards rather than barriers.

Civity training deepens the ability of community leaders to leverage their passions and visions in their professional and personal lives by developing strategic relationship-building skills centered on connecting with people who are different.

  • Practice reaching out to people different from themselves.
  • Acknowledge and take on the risk of telling their own story.
  • Create listening spaces to invite and truly hear the stories others have to share.
  • Discover the power of small “wise interventions” to make everyday interactions count.

​The Civity Train the Leaders Workshop prepares participants to facilitate relationship-building experiences for others, and gives participants the ability to use the Civity Method themselves.

The Center will lead the trainings. Topics include how to deepen conversations, storytelling and story-listening, putting differences on the table, and folding in conversation across difference in community gatherings.

Join us online on one, or all, of the following dates to participate: Jan. 26, Feb. 23, and March 30. Sessions will run from 10 a.m. to noon CST.

Learn more and register at cfra.org/events.

Feature photo: Yard signs similar to this one have been seen in rural communities across the country.  |  Photo by Rhea Landholm