OP-ED

Coming together for the betterment of Rhode Island

Posted

Consider the following quote from Erick-Woods Erickson: “The truth...is that our Facebook friends are probably not going to water our flowers while we are on vacation and our Twitter followers will not bring us a meal if we are sick. But the actual human being next door might do both if we meet her or him.”

He’s right. It’s time for us to get back together. As your community foundation, the Rhode Island Foundation would like to play a role in making that happen.

One of our primary functions is to convene and connect people, and organizations, in an effort to work together for the good of our state. At the same time, we recognize that although people are more “connected” than ever, disconnect between us seems insurmountable at times.

So, we’ve launched a new initiative, TogetherRI, to create space for listening, reconnecting and promoting civic and civil dialogue with mutual respect and honest conversation.

TogetherRI is a series of 20 neighborly get-togethers, starting this week with two sessions: one on Wednesday, March 21 at 6 p.m. at Pilgrim High School in Warwick and one on Thursday, March 22 at 6 p.m. at Woonsocket Middle School. The get-togethers will run through Saturday, May 5.

They will take place at schools, community centers and other places that are well known and accessible, offering people the chance to talk face-to-face with each other over family-style meals. Every event is free and open to the public.

We each have ideas to share, and we can all work together to strengthen the foundation of our vibrant communities while at the same time leaving the tendency toward divisiveness and polarization at the door. Our goal is for these to be fun, informative, and inclusive for all.

A professional facilitator will be present at each session to offer guidance, but the topics of each tabletop discussion are up to participants. Working with the University of Rhode Island, we will compile what we hear at each session, along with the results of a brief anonymous participant survey. We will communicate that information publicly later this year, including to our elected leaders, as a representation of what is on Rhode Islanders’ minds. We hope there will be suggestions and ideas for growth and improvement that may inspire action.

For more information, including locations, dates, and times, please visit our website, TogetherRI.org. You can sign up, or just show up, at any location you like. We hope you will join us and spread the word.

Here is the opportunity to get together, Rhode Island! Individuals make up our community and individual voices make up the collective voice to build community. We look forward to seeing, and hearing, you.

Neil D. Steinberg is president and CEO of the Rhode Island Foundation.

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