Scaling The Commons

An intervention to depolarize political conversations on Twitter and Facebook in the USA.

What is The Commons?

“Another gentleman I spoke with acknowledged how he used Twitter. Something to the effect of ‘I’m an old man shouting at the sky.’ It so perfectly captured the single hashtag tweets that I saw over and over again. I so appreciated his self awareness. He went on to explain that he lived in a state and worked in a job environment opposite of his own personal political beliefs. Twitter allowed him a voice where he couldn’t otherwise speak up.” — The Commons Facilitator

How does The Commons work?

“One of the most memorable conversations I had was with a man who I believe had used the hashtag #MAGA, and in my original engagement tweet I had asked him what it meant to him. He replied with what it meant to him and then said, ‘You may be the first person in 2 years to actually ask me what it means to me.’ ” — The Commons Facilitator

Can we really make a difference?

“I had a fun and challenging conversation where two people were arguing. I inserted myself in mid-argument, and in a series of threads and sub threads, needed to play several different roles. In one thread I was a conversationalist, on another a mediator, on another offering resources, on another scolding for language. It was a bit dizzying, but overall positive I believe.” — The Commons Facilitator

And by these metrics, we made a difference in 2019.

“For those I engaged with online that were positively impacted, I’d say that the impact is largely that they have polarization on their radar and understand that there is something they individually can do to combat the phenomenon.” — The Commons Facilitator

We now have a playbook.

How to target with the intention to depolarize

“Beginning by recognizing the value in an original tweet or message appeared helpful in reducing the walls that a user had up and lead to a reply. More often than not I would rely on general questions (i.e. ‘Do you talk about this often? How do those conversations go?’) to provide a space for a user to take the conversation where they’d like to, to encourage responses.” — The Commons Facilitator

How to hold constructive conversations

Next up: depolarizing conversations during the 2020 election

Build Up transforms conflict in the digital age. Our approach combines peacebuilding, participation and technology.