The Flying Pig Society for Created Equal and Breathing Free
The Flying Pig Society is the art and science behind the Village Square, where we share what in the world we were thinking, what worked and what we'd never ever do again.
Here a few highlights of what we do to lay the groundwork for the conversation we wanted to have for "Created Equal." Here's what we do every time:
We did our best to frame our topics around common ground. When possible, we moralize democracy - reminding people what is sacred about the high ideal of democracy. We often do that with quotes we share at the beginning of our programming or with how we frame our programs and season topic. "Created Equal and Breathing Free" is a part of our season of programs "Founding Ideals" - the framing of the program and the season both seeks common ground and moralizes democracy.
We try our best to press the hive switch creating a transcendent common bond between the people in our audience.
We assume good intention behind varying opinions, treating them with respect and embracing the power of the diversity.
We always structure the conversation more like friends gathering in the facilitator's living room than the usual debate fare. We're specifically seeking a personal informality and want the conversation to flow naturally. To that same end, we ask the facilitator to be him or herself (not a blank slate).
We distributed 2 "civility bells" to a liberal and conservative and asked the audience not to "" (audience clapping easily separates them into the pro and con "tribes" and we think it decreases their ability to empathize).
During this program we surprised them on stage with shoes in the others' size and placed the shoes directly in front of each participant on the floor, setting the frame of the conversation as a pursuit of empathy.
We made "Trump cards" that said "Civility is for Losers 2016" and "I am always right" and told the audience (about 160) that they didn't want to get a Trump card from us. Superficially, this got a good laugh but we were also trying to short-circuit anger from the audience over their sacred issues (we've found these to be the hardest to converse on). The LGBT community advocates regularly for their cause and we wanted this to inspire empathy, not advocacy. We did get feedback from conservatives in the audience that if we did something like this we also needed to make a jab at a democratic candidate, perhaps Hillary Clinton's email?
The facilitator make two "get out of jail free" free cards and presented them to each panelist. Since he assumed that the conversation would get fairly personal, he wanted them to feel the safety of knowing that they could simply opt out of the line of questioning.
We took only written audience questions in this program. It is our perception that this topic qualifies as a issues for each of the participants - for the priest religious freedom and for our theater director, LGBT rights. Possibly more importantly, these are sacred topics for many of our audience members, from the Catholic Church and the LGBT community. We have hosted programs before that touch on sacred issues and they easily get angry and tribal. Probably in retrospect, we could have used either written questions only OR the Trump cards as a way to address this challenge - we didn't need both.