Materials that are used by the Oshkosh Civility Project. Graphics depict the nine key principles to promoting civility. The small card is a tool that can be handed to people as a friendly reminder. / Pamela Parks/For the Door County Advocate
Civility may be on its way to a neighborhood, organization or government meeting near you.
Nearly three dozen people attended an informational meeting about developing a civility project in Door County on Monday. The idea is to create greater respect and less discord in public discussions.
Attendees at the session, hosted by the Door County League of Women Voters (DCLWV) at the Sturgeon Bay City Hall, included community members, representatives from local school districts and government officials, employees of nonprofit organizations, and other community leaders interested in learning more about creating a stronger commitment to the practice of civility here in Door County.
DCLWV’s interest in encouraging civility has included showing the documentary film by Brian Malone “Patriocracy” and exploring the book “Healing the Heart of Democracy” by Parker J. Palmer. Additional interest spurred the organization to consider actions that might improve the quality of civil discourse.
“Many people were interested in promoting civility locally and beyond,” said Shirley Senarighi, president of DCLWV.
Senarighi also said that the topic is also currently a focus of the Wisconsin Council of Churches, which emphasized a Season of Civility.
The DCLWV invited Dr. Tom Grogan of the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh and Sue Panek, of the Oshkosh Area United Way, to present the work of the Oshkosh Civility Project. Publicly launched in February 2011, the Oshkosh Civility Project built upon the established “Speak Your Peace” effort of Duluth-Superior and Truckee-Tahoe, Calif.
“Speak Your Peace,” inspired by P.M. Forni’s books “Choosing Civility” and “The Civility Solution,” and focuses on nine principles of civility.
The nine principles of civility are: Pay attention, listen closely, be inclusive, don’t gossip, show respect, be agreeable, apologize sincerely, be constructive in comments/suggestions and feedback, and accept responsibility. The principals are listed on the back of business card-like handouts as well as depicted on posters with correlating graphics.
Panek said that the project is about “creating lifelong habits.”
“Civility relates to the fabric of the exchange,” Grogan said. “The sense of shared responsibility to help one another grow ... And the most important principle is No. 8: how you engage and what you are trying to do with the difference of opinion. If you can grow and learn from one another, you can advance as a society. We want people to be active, vibrant and engaged in their community.”
He emphasized that civility is a message for people of all ages and provides common expectations; it is a framework that is nonpartisan and nonpolitical.
“It is the glue that holds people together ... they endure, exist, deal with challenges. They share experiences ... that cause people to share, grow and learn together,” Grogan said. “That is the fabric of the social exchange.”
For more information about the developing local civility project, contact the Door County League of Women Voters at firstname.lastname@example.org or (920) 743-1691.