"E PLURIBUS UNUM"
Out of many, one
The Village Square is a nervy bunch of liberals and conservatives who believe that disagreement and dialogue make for a good conversation, a good country, and a good time. We host 25 events a year, gathering citizens across differences in color, creed and ideology — building the town hall of the 21st century across the partisan divide.
"Bad news: Eat your broccoli civics is dead. Good news: We've learned how to make civic gatherings anything but dull."
Our Programs Streams
What's guiding us
The Village Square is dedicated to bridging divides through discussion and spirited disagreement.
With the rapid societal changes of the digital age, institutions and relationships
in society that are fundamental to a functioning democracy have weakened or disappeared. Politically diverse local civic clubs and service organizations used to
naturally knit us together across differences. But now, as citizens easily find
opinions that support their preexisting views online, we have increasingly less
contact with people who disagree with us. Like-minded groups are on the rise.
The quintessentially American town hall - a basic building block of democratic
engagement across wide differences of opinion since the time of our founders –
can no longer rely on the personal relationships of trust that ensure its
viability. We have no place to talk as neighbors.
This results in a hyper-partisan, highly segmented civic environment in which local
decisions become nationalized – too often viewed simplistically as new fronts
in an ideological battle to control the future of America, through the narrow
lens of a particular cause. The public debate can often run off the rails,
having little to do with any local decision to be made, lacking a broad view of
the community as a whole, and sometimes simply factually wrong. This is hardly
the best way to build strong communities and solve local, state and national
problems on a footing of sound thinking informed by reliable data. This
dysfunction is damaging the central role of the local community as a building
block of a healthy democracy and it reverberates in our leadership from city
hall to the U.S. Congress.
Increasingly rare in American communities are cross-cutting relationships, where hostility
generated by ideological differences can be mitigated by a hometown civic
fabric that connects diverse people to each other in other areas of their lives - whether in ideologically diverse civic clubs, churches, or neighborhoods. These relationships across differences used to exist as part of the “air” we breathed in a less tribally divided, less electronic and more humanly-connected past. But this highly segmented hometown environment is now the new status quo.
This dysfunction has serious consequences, as democratic institutions – at all levels of governance – depend on uneasy relationships of trust between people with profound disagreement. We believe that the social civic fabric that we used to take for granted – a precondition to democracy and democratic problem solving - now requires a new intentionality to preserve.