Make Shift Coffee House

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30 Comments on “Make Shift Coffee House”

  1. Thanks for your comment, Sydney. Very much appreciated!

    And thanks for your help with organizing and for your enthusiasm about understanding people with different views.

  2. I’m one of the student organizers of the event, which we hosted as part of a regular Bowdoin discussion series on interesting and controversial issues. I think partnerning with Make Shift and having community members at this event made it the best one we have had by far!

    Sometimes at Bowdoin, campus wide discussions about important issues feel too much like class discussions, theoretical and impersonal. Sharing in a group with community members that don’t attend Bowdoin made our discussion more grounded in our experiences rather than vague academic ideas; we shared personal stories that have led us to think what we do, and heard many real-life examples of concepts.

    Students also crave hearing the perspectives of local Mainers, as Bowdoin is a very different place from the rest of Maine, and many of us have a lot to learn about where we are. Talking about geographical differences and how place might shape morality was fascinating with these groups.

    Craig was a fantastic facilitator, listening deeply and facilitating connections between and among students and community members.

    A huge thank you to Make Shift Coffe House for coming to Bowdoin!

  3. Thanks for writing Bill,

    And I have to chuckle at your comment: “….my turn at speaking in front of the whole group felt like it lasted a loooong time.”

    Yup. I kept you up there because the things you had to say were so interesting. You has such a great story to tell!

    I hope you didn’t mind too much. You have obviously thought a LOT about politics and have a wealth of experience from which to draw. So thanks for joining us and for speaking up……and staying in front of the group for a looooong time!

  4. In reply to Ann Jackson.
    I have to disagree with you, both in principle and in detail.
    First, the people who are on the extremes are the ones who most need to be engaged, not just so their views can be heard and rationally evaluated by others, but also so that they are encouraged to listen to more moderate viewpoints. Shunning is antithetical to communication, and I say that as someone who has been asked/told to “STFU” by people who disagree with me.
    Second, while there were some opinions expressed which I would characterize as decidedly non-centrist, I didn’t get any sense that they were keeping anybody else from speaking out (with the possible exception of me — my turn at speaking in front of the whole group felt like it lasted a loooong time, but I don’t think I qualify as extreme left).

  5. Thanks for writing Ann.

    It’s no secret that the Hallowell Make Shift Coffee House was hosted by Jessica Gorton and the Episcopal Church of Sts. Barnabas and Mathew Episcopal Church. It’s Jessica you are talking about.

    Jessica’s political views are on the left but that did not impact her ability to do a good job of hosting a Make Shift Coffee House. She and I discussed in advance the importance of creating a venue where all political views would be welcome and she did a good job with that. She specifically reached out to conservative churches and Republicans and conservatives in her community and encouraged them to attend. She also reached out to liberal groups and specific people. Everyone who did attend had a chance to express their views. Jessica’s political views had no impact on that.

    All Make Shift Coffee House hosts have political views and that’s fine as long as there is room for ALL views to be expressed at a Make Shift Coffee House. For instance, the Bangor Make Shift Coffee House was hosted by the Maine Republican Party. Because all political views were welcome and encouraged at the event, that was fine.

    You say that “keeping people like that from being intimately engaged in your venues/meetings would be the most productive thing you could do right now.” You asked my opinion. I disagree. We actually want people with extreme political views to be intimately engaged in Make Shift Coffee Houses. We need to hear and learn about all perspectives. I don’t want to keep anyone from being engaged. All views are welcome.

  6. Dear Craig, I’m wondering why someone with such extreme biases and extreme political views would be allowed to HOST an event that is supposed to have a goal of giving everyone a voice and bringing people together where it’s safe and constructive to hear one another out. Without naming names, that one person is EXTREME LEFT and there is NO ROOM there to hear anyone else’s voice IMHO. I think keeping people like that from being intimately engaged in your venues/meetings would be the most productive thing you could do right now. Just my 2 cents. Would be happy to hear yours also. TY.

  7. Thanks for your comment, Anne.
    And thanks to you also, Frank.
    It is SO encouraging to receive comments like these.
    I really appreciate that you each took the time to validate what we are trying to do.

  8. Many thanks to Craig and the organizers of the evening!
    I thought it was extremely useful and an excellent example of how it is possible to “talk across the divide”.
    It has provided me with a specific example to describe to other groups and friends as to how we can do this “work” together and its importance.
    The questions were right on target and it seemed to particularly helpful that Craig asked each speaker to describe the source of his/her beliefs and ideas.

  9. It was gratifying to attend the Make Shift Coffee House. I think that this this forum was well suited to provide attendees with a chance to listen, and to provide comment about the political issues and the growing divide. I hope that this kind of get-together will be repeated in other places, but also again in our area, so that we can begin to create connections across the middle of the political spectrum.

    Many thanks to the organizers for providing the venue, and to our moderator who did a great job facilitating discussion.

  10. Thanks for your comment Lindsay.

    I SO appreciate you taking the time to write these encouraging thoughts.

    See you next time!

  11. Thanks Craig, for a very engaging evening! It was almost overwhelming how many ideas and feelings came up around politics, even in a room full of (mostly) liberals. Thank goodness for your ability and enthusiasm as a facilitator.

    Speaking of all those liberals, perhaps you might suggest that attendees bring someone from the other end of the political spectrum as a way to get a more balanced mix. I can’t imagine that conservatives (in this case) would have passed up an opportunity to share their perspective if they had known that we were really interested in hearing from them.

    The one thing that we all seem to agree on right now is that ‘the system’ is not working as it is. We really need to find a way to understand one another better so that we can create solutions that are “better than the sum of their parts.” (thanks to Laurie for that.)

    This is such important work that you are doing. I’m looking forward to attending as many ‘Coffee Houses’ as I can, with a conservative friend along for the ride!

  12. In reply to Doug poulin.
    Hi Doug, I agree with Craig that your heartfelt, honest comments brought a lot to our discussion on Friday night, and I agree with you that the challenge of speaking/listening rather than demonizing is worthwhile. I have a thought regarding your question about where to go from here: Check out the “Resources for understanding each other” that Craig has assembled to help us all carry on such challenging conversations. Click the link on the left or just go here: Thanks again!

  13. Thanks for your comment Doug.

    Next? More speaking and listening.

    I think talking is better than violence; often harder, but usually better.

    I am SO appreciative of you speaking up at the Coffee House. You added so much and gave us all so much think about.

  14. I went to bangor coffeehouse. I thot it was worthwhile and challenging to speak and listen rather than demonize. The surface was scratched, but i have a lot more listening to do. Where to go from here?

  15. I’m a democrat and have family and friends who are Republicans. I want to understand their viewpoint and I want mine heard too.
    It seems to me we are not that far apart. . . barring far right and far left ideologies.
    There are Republicans I admire and can listen to. Are there Democrats you can listen to?
    We are ALL Americans.

  16. I loved the opportunity to interact with people whose views I often wonder about. I don’t normally have the opportunity/ time to chat with folks from a different viewpoint in a meaningful way. This is essential because we must work together.

  17. Unless we engage both sides the conversation does achieve its goals. I know what I believe and what those who attended believe , but we were pretty much all liberals and therefore dud not attract a true reoresentation of beliefs oyt there.

  18. What a great discussion last night.

    Heartfelt thanks to those who shared their stories and insights. We heard some really great stuff! And heartfelt thanks to those who listened.

    How do I know what to believe?

    Here’s one answer I heard: “People are afraid and cling to whatever they can to make sense of their crazy lives.”

    What answers did you hear?

    What answers do you have?

  19. In reply to John Bliss Sr.
    Here’s a post-mortem comment on my own comment (I am an Independent):

    Please read “This Article Won’t Change Your Mind: The facts on why facts alone can’t fight false beliefs” in Mar.13’17 The Atlantic.

    The article tells us that BELIEF trumps (no pun intended) FACT when you vote with your tribe. It seems that showing up at the makeshift coffeehouse Jan 14 and Mar 11 was a little more like voting with the “progressive tribe” than a “conservative tribe”.

    So perhaps the April 29 event can be headlined “SUPPORT THIS COUNTRY’S PRESIDENT ELECT” to better ensure that we hear a balance of belief (civil-minded progressives will sneak in).

  20. Science has an important role to play in these (or similar) discussions. I like the following graphic as a reminder of that:

    [This reply space was unable to handle my graphic but in any case it showed the overlapping relationship between Truth and Beliefs in order to produce human-shared Knowledge.]

    Another interesting resource for finding shared values going forward is a discipline called Appreciative Inquiry (See Wikipedia’s “Appreciative Inquiry” entry or David Cooperrider’s 2005 book on what is now in 2017 such a timely topic.)

  21. I was glad to have been able to attend the Makeshift Coffee House, and appreciate your efforts at having put it all together. I’d like to see this continue but do have a few comments/suggestions:

    1. The fact that there was not equal representation between liberals/conservatives, Republicans/Democrats was not conducive to a good exchange. Perhaps a change of venue to a less “democrat” infused community like Brunswick might be an idea.

    2. A “social hour” might be best limited to the end of the discussion (not to say people couldn’t come early, but there was too much time before the actual discussion began and some of us got pretty restless).

    3. There was some kind of tacit understanding to be politically correct, to not express some of our real frustration and anger at what’s continuing to go on in Washington, Trump and his administration being the true “elephant” in the room. A real challenging discussion might provoke anger, but until this is faced head on, no true understanding of each other’s side is possible.

    4. A different format might be more effective, based on how the presidential debates were structured.
    Have 3 conservatives and 3 liberals be willing to take stage front. Questions for them could be written ahead of time and submitted. These questions would be asked by the moderator and there would be 2 to 3 minutes for response by the other side, followed by comments (also limited in time) from the audience. The “coffee hour” at the end might generate more individual discussions.

    Just some ideas…………….
    Again, I think coming together to focus on all this is the only grassroots way to effect any kind of change.
    Thanks again.

  22. Yeah, so, I also wish that we got deeper into the issues. I realize that I shied from asking deeper, more probing questions because I was afraid of offending someone and scaring them off. I tend to error on that side of things when I facilitate; tend to be very careful not to put anyone “on the spot.”

    I know. I know. The liberals were dying to hear from conservatives: “How could you possibly vote for Trump?” We heard some answers to that but in hindsight I realize that did not push the Republicans hard on that question because there were so few of them. I didn’t want them to feel ganged up on. I didn’t want to accentuate the imbalance.

    It was a fair first effort. And I and SO grateful to our Republican friends Jason, Nina, Aaron and others for answering my call and showing up. Yet we can do better. I learned several lessons. And I’m really looking forward to the next one.

    Next time maybe we’ll do something to mix up the informal conversations before and after the group talk. Maybe we will ask people to lead with explaining their views rather than leading with questions. Maybe we will focus on a more specific topic.

    Your thoughts about the format?

    One thing’s for sure. We definitely want to have a better balance of conservatives and liberals. If you have ideas on where to have the next one to help make that happen, please write to me!

    And thanks for coming. It was a great turnout and a very respectful first effort.

  23. It was a great start to something I hope can continue – maybe occasionally, maybe monthly for a few times?
    I’ve heard criticism that it was too polite! And not sufficiently about resisting trump!
    For me it was an excellent format and great beginning. I’d like to get some practice and find ways to get to root causes rather than disagreement about symptoms. But that would maybe be a different format and a different group. Not sure.
    We do need to get more conservatives willing to come out.
    Someone said that Brunswick is too liberal and that Lewiston might be a good venue – but how many would travel?
    Something that I’m grateful for is the new activism that trump has generated among Hillary supporters….
    We are still a BIG distance from talking about third parties and what stands in the way of their participation.
    Thanks, Craig!!

  24. This was a mighty effort and I hope that another event is scheduled that would be very similar but maybe with a few tweaks. I think you have folks from Brunswick willing to travel so maybe take it on the road ? Lewiston ? Bangor. Being in a town that is more diverse may just solve the problems I felt of there being an imbalance in the crowd and not having the opportunity to chat with folks with differing opinions. I actually would benefit from a slightly smaller group. Thank you Craig et al.

  25. I learned much from this evening and am so glad that folks had an opportunity to sit in the same room, respectfully listening to people with differing opinions. Friendships and families have become strained and even broken over politics from this past season in a way that I haven’t seen in my lifetime. Craig modeled a way for passionate people to have a conversation for the purpose of understanding rather than for the purpose of persuading. The voices were rational and educated, intelligent and thoughtful- not reduced to oversimplified caricatures. Opportunities for small group discussions came before and after the whole group discussion. Thank you to everyone’s generous participation…especially those courageous ones who were in the political minority.

  26. I very much enjoyed this event. I particularly appreciated the eloquence and civility with which differing opinions were expressed throughout the night. Additionally, I found Craig’s calm yet insightful moderating strategy refreshing in this turbulent political climate. I do wish that there had been conservative contributors who were not employed by the Maine GOP, and that there had been more of an effort to integrate liberals and conservatives during the “mingling” phase of the event. Overall, however, I found this first Make Shift Coffee House to be incredibly eyeopening. I hope to attend another one in the future!

  27. The number of attenders and the heartfelt words shared at this first makeshift coffee house was encouraging. I appreciated hearing different views and getting a better sense of the reasons behind voting choices. But this felt like a beginning. Either the beginning of small group, informal conversations or more coffehouses around the state or both. Hopefully at least the individual conversations.

  28. Turnout was better than I expected/feared, so that was good. I agree that there was too much discussion of specific policies, where we already know the views of “our side” and “the other side.” I would have liked to have heard more about the basic values underlying those views. Liberals are said to be strongly concerned about caring for others (beyond the family) and ensuring equal justice for all. Conservatives are said to be more concerned with respect for authority and tradition. Is this true? And if it is, is there any way in which we can craft solutions to problems which address all of these values? As Craig knows, I recommend the work of Jonathan Haidt in this area (although I also have my disagreements with him.)

    If you do this again (and I hope you do), I would recommend smaller groups and a focus on one or more of these basic values. Thanks for all the work you put into this.

  29. I was disappointed. I don’t believe this was a helpful evening although the band was great and the turn out was as well.
    I really wanted to hear, not about republicans and democrats, I know the difference and I am okay with differences. The problem, I believe with people and what they seek to understand, is how this particular President elect could have been elected. What were the factors in choosing this president? What were the policies that were so appealing? What made you vote for him, if you did, and what were your misgivings and hopes.
    I thought and had hoped this was a discussion about the current situation not pro-choice and taxes. I think we all get that.

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