By Mike and Emily Green
Co-founded in 2019 by Mike and Emily Green, a biracial couple living in southern Oregon, Common Ground Conversations on Race in America (CGC) began as a workshop for parents and teachers on “How to Talk to Kids About Race in America.” Emily’s background in social work and her experience in managing wraparound services for at-risk families, coupled with Mike’s unique lens as a cultural economist and national consultant on Inclusive Competitiveness® strategies, laid the foundation for a first-of-its-kind approach to informing, educating and equipping leaders across industry sectors who engage the public and grapple with issues of race. The CGC journey began with a series of inquiries to Emily regarding the home school training of their two young boys on issues of race.
CGC is an education and training consultancy headquartered in southern Oregon. CGC equips businesses, organizations and institutions that value diversity, equity, and an inclusive welcoming culture in their workplace and community environments, with practical engagement tools to cultivate a culture of collaboration and belonging. In less than three years, CGC has grown from a workshop for schools and churches into a national consultancy with institutional clients.
Today, CGC offers training for school districts, universities, churches and nonprofit organizations, municipalities, businesses and police departments. CGC also provides introductory facilitations (online and offline) for groups of any size in any industry to experience a qualitative difference that CGC delivers from other forms of racial equity training. The initial facilitation introduces paradigm-shifting new knowledge and understanding through a lens of historical context and collective learning within a no-blame, no-shame conversational environment that fosters productive dialogue through a “conversations journey” leading to actionable steps. CGC purports to be a prerequisite, not a replacement, to other racial equity and antibias training options.
“Participants typically enter their first CGC facilitation with a fair amount of skepticism, as they do most any training offered by their employer,” CGC co-facilitator Mike Green said. “But during our unique process we witness a consistently remarkable rise in interest, engagement and energy levels reaching a crescendo that’s palpable and felt by everyone in the room. By the end, we see participants engaging in impromptu conversations and asking for more CGC training time. That’s not the kind of responses we hear from other similar types of training. That’s why we believe CGC is a valuable prerequisite that can prepare participants for engaging in additional types of diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) training.”
“We prepared our young boys, Josiah and Caleb, to give a presentation about Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. on MLK Day a few years ago when they were six and seven,” Emily said. “Their teachers were impressed with what they learned from our boys, and around that same time, I began to receive inquiries about how we navigated conversations about race in our home. I consistently heard feelings of hesitation and uncertainty about how – or if – to talk about race. As word spread, the inquiries increased to a point where I talked with Mike about it, and the idea was born to develop a workshop to equip parents and teachers with confidence to teach their kids about race in America. We wanted to help parents better understand the societal dynamics they are witnessing and accurately translate it to their children. After the murder of George Floyd in 2020, the demand for our services dramatically increased despite the pandemic, which caused us to pivot to online engagements that have proven to be effective.”
In his national role as Chief Strategist at the National Institute for Inclusive Competitiveness®, Mike helps institution and business leaders, along with public policymakers, design and develop strategies that address entrenched systemic racial problems in educational and economic ecosystems, workforce and entrepreneurship pipelines, and workplace environments.
“Racial discrimination is one of the most challenging and unresolved intractable problems underlying many of the most important challenges we face in each generation, from education and economics, business growth and job creation, to social engagement, religion and politics,” Mike said. “Most of the nation is not sufficiently knowledgeable, confident and comfortable with discussing racial issues and therefore ignores the problems until they rise to a level at which they can no longer be ignored. Unfortunately, most Americans were never provided any serious insights and understanding of the widespread systemic racism of the 20th century, which was passed down unresolved to 21st century generations. We inherited problems of the past that we did not create. But we own responsibility for the society we pass on to future generations.”
To learn more, visit commongroundconversations.com or contact Emily at firstname.lastname@example.org or Mike at email@example.com.
UPDATE: Southern Oregon University is featuring our CGC Workshop in its professional development education series on March 18. Registration is online here: https://inside.sou.edu/professional/workshops.html#common-ground-conversations-on-race-march-18-2022