Common Bond Institute

ETO Press Release



CONTACT: Steve Olweean,

Conference Gathers Many Voices
to Address Polarization in Society

‘Engaging the Other: The Power of Compassion’
– a 3-day conference – is slated for
April 13-15 at Edgewood College in Madison, Wisconsin

As bitter polarization is ratcheting up across society and people increasingly relate in shrill voices from opposing “sides,” Common Bond Institute (CBI) and Edgewood College are holding the 8th Conference on “Engaging the Other: The Power of Compassion,” a free, highly participatory conference that will address rising division, negative stereotypes, and animosity around social and political issues in the United States and the local community. Nationally renowned facilitators from along the socio-political spectrum from “right” to “left” will guide opportunities within a respectful space for deep listening and compassionate dialogue across ideological differences and practical, collaborative action planning to increase civility in our public discourse.

“At a time when mounting polarization is the culprit, we’re working to achieve mutual understandings of both why and how we become polarized and create negative, adversarial images of “Us and Them,” whether we’re looking across the globe or across the street,” says Steve Olweean, director of CBI and coordinator of the conference. “Instead of assuming nefarious intentions, what is needed is recognizing common ground on fundamental needs and intentions, to then better understand and compassionately address honest differences in how we choose to go about meeting them.”

The event is an action oriented working conference to advance a wider public dialogue about how we engage in dialogue and deliberation on controversial issues, and methods for identifying mutual goals and intents to promote practical remedies for healing relationships with a perceived “Other” and collaboration on achieving those common goals.

CBI is a non-governmental organization that has conducted more than 50 major conferences and numerous trainings over 28 years in various countries geared to conflict transformation and social healing. Since 2006 it’s ETO Conference series has been held throughout the US promoting inclusive, proactive efforts toward reducing polarization in society. This year it is one of many like-purposed efforts, including several occurring within a one week period, in a nation-wide push for transpartisan understanding of different and even opposing perspectives on meeting shared needs and intentions, and for effective applications in bridging the divides. Conference outcomes will contribute to a stream of these initiatives to build on the energy, processes, and outcomes of each event for a broader, more sustained impact.

World Civility Day” by the Gary Chamber of Commerce held in Gary, Indiana, April 12

Engaging the Other” on the Edgewood campus, April 13-15,

Listen First in Charlottesville”, by Listen First Project, in Charlottesville, Virginia, April 20-22

Bridge Summit 2018” by BridgeUSA in Dallas, Texas April 20-22

Participants from many diverse communities are invited to be an active part of this free initiative by registering for “Engaging the Other” on CBI’s website at: The event is sponsored by CBI, Edgewood College, and International Humanistic Psychology Assoc., and supported by Michigan State University. The event is held at Edgewood College and begins Friday 13th at 4 pm and closes Sunday 15th at 1:00 pm.