Here are thumbnail sketches of some common-ground efforts around the country:
Cambridge, Mass. In the fall of 1989, some family therapists there began wondering if techniques that help families solve conflicts could be applied to community conflicts like abortion. They formed the Public Conversations Project, which has since held 19 "dialogue sessions" between abortion opponents and defenders in Cambridge, Jackson, Miss., and Gettysburg, Pa.
"The purpose was really to see if people could have a different kind of conversation about the issue than the usual polarized one - one that involved some listening and learning, and getting new perspectives on one's beliefs and values," said Maggie Herzig, the project's executive director.
Says one participant in the sessions: "Arguments are a dime a dozen. This was unique."
Cleveland. In January 1993, members of the Missouri common ground group helped start a similar effort here. The impetus came from the Cleveland chapter of Feminists for Life of Ohio. Since then, a core group of about 10 activists has met monthly.
"At the first follow-up meeting, we identified several areas of common ground that we could work on," said Marilyn Kopp, of Feminists for Life. "It looked like we were going to take on the world."
The group spent months formalizing ground rules and a mission statement so the effort wouldn't fall apart over a misunderstanding. It hopes to become involved in adoption reform and to sponsor a "Dialogue Day" on abortion.
Milwaukee. After the Persian Gulf War, Maggi Cage, a psychotherapist and professional mediator, began wondering how she could promote peace. …