The Search for Common Ground
By Millie Jones, MPH
common ground – definition
(n.) Foundation of common interest or comprehension, as in a social relationship or a discussion (2013 ASK.com)
Area of agreement: something mutually agreed upon, especially as a basis for negotiation, a foundation for mutual understanding (Yahoo! Answers. Best answer chosen by voters)
Lately, I have been thinking about "common ground" and where it has gone. About 10 years ago, it was trending as a means for working with our partners in the public health community. We embraced the opportunity to identify a challenge, dialogue and collectively develop a common vision. Using "Future Search," my friend and former co-worker, Dr. Richard (Dick) Aronson facilitated relationship building, trust, and shared visioning for the work we were doing in maternal and child health (MCH). This process of seeking common ground fosters such civility by bringing the "whole system" into the room, allowing participants to take ownership and collectively develop a future action.
These days, it seems the conversations regarding MCH are driven by crises. With the recent traumas and emergencies in our nation and local communities, we come together with a willingness and urgency to right a wrong, to support our community, to mourn our losses, and acknowledge our resiliency.
I challenge us to return to the development of a future action with the child as our common ground. For the one commonality we all have is that of being (or having been) a child. Having just celebrated both Mother’s Day and Father’s Day, I realize that not all of us will have those roles.
If we take all the concerns – health care, healthy birth, school readiness, healthy growth and development, sexuality, transitioning to adulthood – and start the discussion of the future of Title V from the perspective of a child, functioning at peak capacity, with all they need to evolve into a happy and healthy adult. That is a common ground I can live with!
How do we find common ground?
- Identify the commonalities of both organizations, particularly around mission and purpose
- Explore what the value of partnership would be for both parties
- Discuss the potential barriers that would need to be addressed in order to have a successful partnership
- Determine the various strengths of each organization and how they can be leveraged with the other (community wealth)
- Focus on how the partners complement one another and overcome the barriers (Corporation for National and Community Service. FACES AmeriCorps Applicant Toolkit. Reference Sheet #2)