Mediators Foundation Year End Report: 2018 Project Updates



In mid-November of 2017 a small group of philanthropic leaders gathered at Pocantico, the Rockefeller Brothers Fund’s conference center, for a confidential conversation about philanthropy’s role during these contentious and divided times.

Many of us have had conversations over the course of this year with friends and colleagues about the declining quality of discourse in our country on matters of great
consequence. Society seems divided in so many ways that inhibit reflection, compromise, and the discovery of common ground. Stephen Heintz, RBF’s president, hosted a small and diverse group of leaders in philanthropy, representing left, right, and center to discuss whether, despite our ideological differences and specific philanthropic goals, there might be some ways to work together to try to help heal our society.

The group explored how we can make a difference and if we can find a way to work with diverse philanthropic leaders who share very different views. We discussed a wide variety of possible way philanthropists could help our nation have a better conversation about our differences and our future.

Although we did not have a specific outcome in mind, a number of potential next steps emerged which we intend to explore in the coming months. One of these outcomes involves catalyzing ongoing conversations within philanthropy, and perhaps beyond.

The meeting was co-initiated and organized by Stephen Heintz, president of the Rockefeller Brothers’ Fund, Mediators Foundation’s Mark Gerzon and John Steiner, and Chris Gates, former, vice president of the Council on Foundations . At the direct request of those involved, details about who attended and the next steps to which they agreed will remain private.



This organization – now 83 organizations strong, which started as a gleam in Mark and John’s eyes, has been incubated by Mediators Foundation since its beginning in early 2015. It has grown and flourished and we’re about to end serving as the organization’s 501c3 umbrella as it is increasingly independent. We are proud to have served this field in this way. John continues as a Bridge Alliance board member. For more information go to:



We continue to explore avenues for magnifying the voice of citizens and organizations from All Sides, who are working together with civility and respect to resolve the great issues we face. Whether Left, Right, Center or Transpartisan, many Americans are crossing the divides in remarkable, inspiring ways. Under the leadership of John Steiner, Mediators Foundation has become a sponsor of Listen First Charlottesville — — and has taken the lead in organizing a series of Jeffersonian dinners at Monticello the evening before the event. John will also be attending Unrig the System Summit — — in New Orleans, February 2-4, 2018 – where he is convening and hosting a conversation among national, bridge organization leaders to explore catalyzing an AllSides/Bridge/Transpartisan constituency. John is also serving as an advisor to a National Day of Conversation, scheduled for March 2018. In addition, we continue in conversation with Mayor Mike Rawlings of Dallas and now with civic leaders in Atlanta to host Citizen Summit 2019 — a third convention on collaboration. In Salt Lake City on January 19th., 2018, a second Utah Citizen Summit will be held. Mediators Foundation initiated the first one in November, 2016 and worked closely with our Utah colleagues who put it on. During that ceremony, Mark Gerzon and John Steiner received Lifetime Achievement Awards.



From project director Debilyn Molineaux:

Living Room Conversations is having an expansive year. The highlight is Joan Blades’ TEDWomen Talk, “The Power of Partnership” with conservative partner John Gable, founder of AllSides. We’re developing tools—a beautiful, easy-to-use, mobile-friendly website; a directory, a Facebook page and soon, an app–to help people find each other and organize their own conversations. We now have vetted Conversation Guides on over 60 topics.

Video Living Room Conversations are taking off. These are phenomenal—easy to use, surprisingly intimate, really diverse, bringing people together literally from across the nation–all in the comfort of their own homes. Faith community use of Living Room Conversations is growing: in addition to a northern California Episcopal diocese, two Jewish Community Centers have had us help them organize conversations warmly received and enthusiastically attended. Minnesota organizers have for over a year developed a thriving Living Room Conversations Community in Minneapolis using the Status and Privilege conversation. One of the organizers on staff with a local community college has begun leading that same conversation with 75 faculty and staff of her college at a time, because the college itself has written us right into their official diversity and inclusion plan! The entire Minnesota State College and University System is interested in Living Room Conversations as a result, and exploring formal partnership with us. Our partnership with AllSides bringing Living Room Conversations into middle and high schools–called AllSides for Schools–is now in 46 states.



On Common Ground aims to assert a new narrative about the value of our public lands: It is a narrative rooted not in facts and figures but in emotion and personal history. It is a narrative that creates a new positive understanding of what these publicly held lands have meant to us across our history, what they mean to us now, and how our relationship to them can help shape our future. This is a multi-year endeavor utilizing the highest quality creative producers and storytellers in the business. By featuring diverse individuals with a common mindset, we reach across the aisle and across the land.



VoterRXTM will leverage a highly successful 90-second NatureRX© video (“The best drug commercial you’ll ever see” – Outside Magazine) that went viral. Written and directed by award-winning filmmaker Justin Bogardus, NatureRX© has has over 40 million aggregate views on social media (3+ million on YouTube and many million views on various Facebook posts). VoterRXTM represents the natural evolution for Justin Bogardus and the creative team behind Nature RX in refining this successful spoof RX satire model, tracking its impact and measuring outcomes in voter turnout and civic engagement. In his TEDx talk about NatureRX© (“Does Nature have a marketing problem”), Justin lays out poignantly and humorously how this RX satire approach is uniquely innovative and can adapt to many important and valuable messages by understanding how the human mind works and what kinds of messages actually mobilize action. VoterRXTM is well positioned and timely, considering faith in US democratic processes and voter turnout is consistently at all time low levels in American history. Contact Justin for more info on his unique RX creative approach and any interest you may have in supporting this viral video campaign for a healthy vibrant democracy.



BridgeUSA is a national organization, now on eleven college campuses, started by college students at the University of Colorado and the University of Notre Dame. Mediators Foundation hosted a gathering at CU in 2015 that led to BridgeCU. John sits on their national board. Bridge USA encourages virtuous discourse on college campuses across the country (

We believe that good governance starts with constructive political discussion, so our organization works to foster spaces that bring students together through civil discourse about diverse ideas. Ultimately, BridgeUSA intends to break down the barriers that otherwise keep America’s political opposites from meeting and talking with one another. It starts with the students of today: the politicians, professors, business teachers, and active citizens of tomorrow.

In the past year, we have expanded our leadership team to include five new teammates in addition to the two co-founders. We also have fostered relationships with other organizations in the Bridge Alliance to partner on grants, co-host events on campuses, and plan a conference for April 2018. Additionally, we are in the process of breaking off from our fiscal sponsor to become our own independent non-profit organization, running on a model that includes a board of directors in addition to our organization’s team members.

BridgeUSA has active chapters on eleven college campuses with more to start in coming months. We are excited to be mobilizing thousands of students in our events, allowing them to learn about and engage in virtuous discourse.



An initiative of Golden Triad, and led by Mari Plaza-Munet, Solarizing Puerto Rico is working to help businesses owners from around the world provide long-term solar energy equipment to small business owners, entrepreneurs, and eco-farms in Puerto Rico, so they are once again empowered to stand on their own after the devastating Hurricane Maria. As power is restored, this project also holds the long-term goal of saving small businesses, entrepreneurs, and farms thousands of dollars currently spent on petroleum based electricity bills by replacing it with solar energy.



Wisdom Beyond Borders is a fund, administered by Mediators Foundation, to support the work of individual wisdom teachers and leaders through honoraria–a kind of private MacArthur Award.

Because these recipients are people whose work is well recognized and understood and in order to simplify their lives, the money is offered freely, with no strings attached and with no expectation of written reports.




For the past year, we have been working closely with a network of practitioners who are experienced in a variety of cutting-edge methods for bridging divides, building community and forging common ground among diverse stakeholders. We are exploring creating a teaching/learning community that would connect with others doing similar work around the country and that would convene seminars and workshops to disseminate the knowledge of our experienced Boulder and perhaps nationally-based faculty with individuals and organizations who would benefit from it.



Thanks to the efforts of Josue Romualdo, who serves both as project director and was my former assistant, this project has now developed a strong funding proposal which has been shared with potential donors. We are committed to supporting undocumented residents of Boulder County by connecting them to the support services they need, and this project, when funded, will allow us to play a small but significant role in meeting this need.

After working on this project, Josue was excited to be offered a full-time staff job in Washington, D.C. from the Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights. So we are looking for a project director, preferably bilingual, who can maintain the momentum that Josue built on this timely and vital local project.



The Naptime Project is a platform that connects parent “pen pals” from different political backgrounds who can email or text one another periodically to share stories and tips, as well as provides access to an accompanying social media group. The concept is fairly simple: get people who hold very different political and cultural beliefs to talk about topics other than that – at least at first. During the few precious hours parents get to themselves while their babies are napping, they often ask the question, “What’s the most important thing I can do with this time?” The Naptime Project gives them an opportunity to do something fun – and meaningful – while providing a social outlet to combat the isolation new parents often feel.

The Active Peace Initiative is community-level organizing and training that
puts peace into practice using the principles and practices of nonviolence and restorative justice. Its goal is to align the longing for peace and justice with a practical and transformative way to bring it about.

Specifically, The Community Healing Initiative offers a transformational approach to social change using the principles and practices of nonviolence and restorative justice. Two full day trainings in four cities will empower changemakers with the tools needed to address even the most challenging issues and their root causes. The Initiative fills a leadership vacuum wherein some of the most basic tenets of nonviolent social change are not understood and practiced. It was formed with the understanding that the principles and practices of restorative justice should not just be limited to the justice system. At its root the initiative holds that the most challenging issues, from gun violence to race relations, systemic sexual abuse to environmental concerns, can be addressed while communities are strengthened.



The purpose of this project is to show that Democrats and Republicans can work through their political ideologies, put aside the fiery language that plagues news coverage, and work together in finding common ground to develop policy proposals. Through a three-part process of learning, experimenting, and sharing, this project helps build a community of “byepartisans” that can lead the way towards successful collaboration across party divides.


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