Shades of Purple: Dialogue across difference in greater Minnesota is a conversation program led by Project Optimist (formerly The Optimist). We’re coordinating a series of community events that bring greater Minnesotans together to discuss controversial topics.
The goal is to spur community engagement, model civil dialogue and amplify moderate voices. We know that a lot of nuance around important issues gets lost in the noise.
The Shades of Purple events will feed into a podcast series and written stories published by Project Optimist. The stories will share insights from the events that the rest of Minnesota (and the world!) can learn from. Project Optimist will also create and share tip sheets on how to broach difficult topics.
Upcoming dialogue events
On Tuesday, October 17, from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m., Project Optimist will host a virtual conversation on the topic of sustainability in agricultural land ownership. We are inviting agricultural landowners and people who work in agriculture to join us for a moderated dialogue about sustainability.
To participate in the sustainability dialogue, please complete our Shades of Purple registration form.
On Tuesday, November 14, from 5 to 7 p.m., Project Optimist will host a virtual conversation on nuclear power in Minnesota and beyond. Check back for registration details. Read our coverage on Nuclear at a Crossroads here.
Where will other events take place?
The dialogues will take place in person and virtually in Minnesota’s small cities and rural areas. We started in St. Cloud where we partnered with the Central Minnesota Community Empowerment Organization and the Stearns History Museum for a dialogue about belonging. We are partnering with service groups, libraries, media nonprofits, and other local organizations.
What will happen at the events?
At the heart of each gathering is a moderated conversation in which people share the personal experiences that shape their views. Participants will be asked to agree to ground rules and show respect for others.
The events will include food whenever possible and a simple, collaborative art project.
The events will borrow from models used by Essential Partners and Spaceship Media, two organizations with experience leading conversations on controversial topics. Locals will help determine conversation topics during the preparation process.
What happens after the events?
Project Optimist will ask participants how they want to continue their conversations and will plan future events accordingly. We’ll survey attendees immediately after the gathering and a few months later to gauge if the dialogues have a lasting impact.
Podcast producers with Project Optimist will follow up with participants to gather highlights and reflections on the process. They will create journalism to reach a broader audience and convey wisdom gleaned from the events.
How can you help?
- Become a named sponsor of the event series or podcast.
- Become a volunteer moderator for these important conversations. We’ll pay for your training and any travel costs.
- Become a partner to help plan and shape these events.