What is a Red/Blue Workshop?

5-8 Republican-leaning citizens (“Reds”) and 5-8 Democratic-leaning citizens (“Blues”) gather together for a half-day or full-day of structured conversations.  Independents are also welcome to attend. We only ask that for the purposes of the workshop they identify as leaning either Red or Blue, or attend as observers.

There are two types of Red/Blue workshops: 3-hour workshops that cover two exercises, and 6-hour plus lunch workshops that cover all four exercises. We recommend that people attend the 6-hour version if possible.

Two moderators, trained by Better Angels, lead the workshop, ensuring that ground rules are followed and that everyone is treated respectfully.

Why?

In Abraham Lincoln’s First Inaugural Address in 1861, with the nation on the brink of Civil War, he appealed to the “better angels of our nature.”  In our dangerously divided nation, we all need to be touched by something better within us and within the country we share. We hold Red/Blue workshops so that citizens of different political beliefs and different backgrounds can get to know each other as individuals and begin to heal the divisions that are endangering our country.

Goals

  • To better understand the experiences and beliefs of those on the other side of the political divide.
  • To see if there are areas of commonality in addition to differences.
  • To learn something that might be helpful to others in our community and the nation.

The Process

After a brief introduction and discussion of ground rules, attendees of Red/Blue workshops participate in four exercises:

  1. Stereotypes Exercise – Separate red and blue groups generate, discuss, and report back on the most common false stereotypes or misconceptions of their side, why these stereotypes are wrong, what is true instead, and whether there is a kernel of truth in the stereotype.
  2. Fishbowl Exercise – In the Fishbowl exercise, one group sits in chairs in the middle and the other group sits around them to listen and learn. Then the two groups switch positions. There is no interaction between the groups during the fishbowl exercise. Afterwards, people are invited to share what they learned about how the other side sees themselves and if they see anything in common.
  3. Questions Exercise – In the Questions exercise, separate groups of reds and blues meet to generate questions of understanding (as opposed to “gotcha” questions).  They then merge into mixed groups of half reds and half blues, and ask the questions to the other side to gain genuine understanding of the views and experiences of people on the other side.
  4. How Can We Contribute Exercise – Everyone fills out an action grid handout and then pairs up with someone of the other color to share one action step with the whole group. The question: What can each of us do individually, what can our side do, and what might both sides do together to promote better understanding of differences and search for common ground?

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