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Journal & Courier: March 21, 2012 - Common Ground planning includes conversation circles

Doug Mansfield and Jos Holman laughing after the Building Common Ground Initiative press conference.
Doug Mansfield, left, of Greater Lafayette Commerce, and Jos Holman, librarian at the Tippecanoe County Public Library, laugh Wednesday after a press conference where the Building Common Ground Initiative was discussed. / By Bob Scott/Journal & Courier

Written by BOB SCOTT

Jos Holman succinctly summed up the Building Common Ground Initiative.

"If you have a problem, you can never resolve it if you don't talk about it," the librarian at the Tippecanoe County Public Library said Wednesday.

Holman and other community leaders held a press conference to give details about the Building Common Ground Initiative.

The goal of the communitywide effort is to explore and improve civility and inclusion through discussion groups and special presentations.

The county library is one of 30 libraries nationally to receive a $2,500 grant from the American Library Association and the Fetzer Institute to start the Building Common Ground Initiative.

The theme of the initiative is "Building Common Ground: Discussions of Community, Civility and Compassion."

"Conversation circles" will be held starting Sept. 15 at the downtown library. Details are still being finalized. Trained facilitators will lead the free discussions that are open to the public.

Initiative partners include the county library, the Diversity Round Table of Greater Lafayette Commerce and the Division of Diversity & Inclusion at Purdue University.

Holman said the initiative's programs will give citizens an opportunity to examine civility "as it relates to diversity and inclusion."

"The idea of fostering engagement through civic reflection encourages individual reflection on how we interact with other human beings," Holman said. "Respect for all, integrity and service for all, are library values."

Upcoming events include a May report on three focus groups in the community -- African American, Latino/Latina and LGBTQ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer).

Also speaking at the press conference were Doug Mansfield, board chairman, Greater Lafa-yette Commerce; Christine Taylor, vice provost for diversity and chief diversity officer, Purdue University; and Barbara S. Clark, Diversity Round Table co-facilitator, Greater Lafayette Commerce.

Mansfield said he was supporting the initiative because "Greater Lafayette Commerce is always looking for ways to make us a community of choice."

Taylor emphasized that Purdue wants its students to "thrive, not just survive." She said the initiative will educate people on many levels.

"Race issues are the most underdiscussed things in our nation," Taylor said. "Diversity and inclusion are hard issues.

"The idea and focus is to give people skills to conduct conversation circles and have sensitivity to approach those issues."

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