New Foundation team looking to bridge the great divide

How to mix red and blue to make Purple People

A new Foundation R&D team is looking to bridge the great divide

by Sara Wright

Once upon the movement to bring universal health care to Colorado, a handful of people found themselves wondering about the great divide between the “red” and the “blue” in this good ‘ol red, white and blue nation of ours.

They knew that many on the “other” side are good, kind, caring and compassionate people, and not dummies, neither.

Yet they felt baffled: Any reasonable person should clearly see that universal health care would result in a fairer, more efficient health care system that would help more people live healthier lives. I mean the facts all prove it, right?

So where are the reasonable people out there?

And what are we doing wrong in not reaching them?

As part of expanding grassroots support for the movement for health care for everyone, Purple People seeks to develop more effective ways of communicating that will resonate with more people and grow a broad base of support. We’re a working group doing R&D and we’re learning. Here’s a bit of what we’ve learned so far.

Frame your values
See the article “Framing our message matters.”  George Lakoff, cognitive scientist, explains in his book “Don’t think of an Elephant” (and others) how progressives have been missing the boat for the past 50 years by sharing facts. We’ve been hoping to “wake up” more folks to the need to make wiser choices for the environment, in health care, in consumer protection, in education, and much more.

Yet Lakoff shows that the human mind will only take in facts, ideas, or solutions if our values framework says “yes” to them. We need to expand and strengthen in others the values that investing in shared resources for the common good benefits everyone. One way to do this is to talk about our health care values. Here are some examples:

Health care should be a public resource, provided as a public good.

Health is a matter of both personal and social responsibility.

When “We the People” invest in one another’s health, we are all stronger.

Let’s talk with others, not at them

The Purple People set out to forge connections across the great divide. They wanted to get to know their neighbors better and better understand what they need and what they believe.

Living Room Conversations,, offers a method for hosting civil discussions that help America talk to each other again. They offer sample questions on wide array of topics including health care.

Here’s their “blurb”: LRC is the brainchild of Joan Blades, one of the co- founders of, a very liberal online activist movement. She and other liberal and conservative leaders, including Mark Meckler, co-founder of Tea Party Patriots, recognized that partisanship is polarizing our country. They had shared concern that people in America are not talking with each other — that we’re either on the left or the right with no one in the middle. Their concern led them to develop a format that supports conversation about difficult issues.

After hosting two two trial Living Room Conversations, the Purple People have developed an improved list of health care questions we recommend you use when you host a Living Room Conversation.

To host a Living Room Conversation, visit their website

See a sample invite flyer here.

Get your Purple On

Have an open mind? Like people who disagree with you (as long as they can be civil?) Want to learn more about framing, messaging, nonviolent communication and more?

Have the time and energy to host events and reach out to others across the divide? Contact Sara Wright

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