Building Together 2024 - Workshops


In addition to large group sessions and peer-to-peer learning sessions, all attendees can attend two workshops of their choosing during the event. These workshops, customized for a philanthropy audience, are brought to you by leading voices, organizations, and providers in the bridge building space. These workshops offer an array of approaches to the work of bridging—changing mindsets to develop shared empathy and promote healing, learning practical dialogue skills to bridge differences, and building common ground for collaborative work.

When you register, you must select one workshop to attend each day. Each workshop will be offered on Tuesday and Wednesday during the event. If you want to change your workshop selections, contact us at

Master Class in Asset Framing

Defining people by their challenges stigmatizes them. The increasingly volatile climate surrounding conversations about race, communities, and America's future makes taking no position conspicuous and taking the wrong position extremely costly. Philanthropic leaders can overcome immobilizing fear by applying a cognitive frame that engenders understanding and confidence and leads to inspired and constructive action.

This interactive workshop uses presentation, call-and-response, small-group discussion, and humor to engage participants and help them:

  • Make a more convincing case for equity
  • Open more dignifying relationships with staff and communities of color
  • Surface opportunities where others may only see problems
  • Learn about actionable assets of America’s Black community

Facilitator: Trabian Shorters, CEO/Founder, BMe Community

About BMe Community: BMe Community is an award-winning network of innovators, leaders, and champions who invest in aspiring communities. Through our Asset-Framing Program, we train leading organizations in matters of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion. BMe teaches institutions and individuals to define Black people and all people by their aspirations and contributions rather than by degradations and disparities. We don’t ignore what’s wrong with situations, rather we start with what’s right with the people.

Navigating Differences in a World of Political Polarization

Navigating the current political polarization in our communities can often leave leaders at funding institutions feeling defensive or misunderstood. The language that funders use to describe their work on issues of importance to the public can land differently with stakeholders who come from the right or the left of the political continuum and can lead to deep fractures in community partnerships and collaboration. This workshop will help you understand the challenges of communicating across differences in a time of low social trust when your work has public policy implications. In this highly interactive workshop, you will learn strategies and skills for constructive conversations that avoid predictable traps and build common ground for progress.

Facilitator: Bill Doherty, Ph.D., University of Minnesota Professor, Co-founder, Braver Angels

About Braver Angels: Braver Angels is a national movement to bridge the partisan divide. By bringing Red and Blue Americans together into a working alliance, Braver Angels is building new ways to talk to one another, participate together in public life, and influence the direction of the nation.

Bridging Divides Through Collaborative Problem Solving: A Path to Wise and Durable Solutions

In a world where change is constant, and challenges are ever-evolving, philanthropic organizations are uniquely positioned to spark innovation and bring about impactful solutions. A key to unlocking this potential lies in the art of convening diverse stakeholders—a powerful but often overlooked force for solving problems. Convergence Center for Policy Resolution’s workshop will teach participants how to use its evidence-based and time-tested collaborative problem-solving process to convene diverse stakeholders for maximum impact. Collaborative problem-solving is a powerful catalyst for change. It brings together diverse people, builds meaningful relationships, develops breakthrough consensus solutions and inspires deliberate action. This transformative process consistently yields high-quality, sustainable solutions, fosters trust among even the most diverse groups, and bridges divides that once seemed insurmountable. During Convergence's session, you'll embark on an engaging and experiential journey that will delve deep into three pillars of collaborative problem-solving:

  • Collaborative mindsets: Discover the power of cultivating a mindset that fosters solving problems and leveraging the strength of collective wisdom
  • Interpersonal conflict resolution skills: Equip yourself with the skills to not only manage conflicts but to transform them into opportunities for growth and mutual understanding
  • Problem-solving processes: Develop the ability to convene diverse stakeholders, frame issues, identify shared goals, and solve complex problems together

Facilitators: Kit Chalberg, Senior Director, Programs, Convergence Center for Policy Resolution; Mariah Levison, Interim CEO, Convergence Center for Policy Resolution

About Convergence Center for Policy Resolution: Convergence is the leading organization bridging divides to solve critical issues through collaborative problem-solving across ideological, political, and cultural lines. For more than a decade, Convergence has brought together leaders, doers, and experts—many who never thought they could talk to one another—to build trusting relationships, identify breakthrough solutions, and form unlikely alliances for constructive change on seemingly intractable issues. Our process is improving the lives of Americans and strengthening democracy for a more resilient and collaborative future.

Empathic Bridge Building: Where Science Meets Practice

Listening—to constituents, stakeholders, and communities—is an essential skill for those who work in the philanthropic sector. In this engaging workshop, participants will immerse themselves in the science and practice of empathic listening: validating the perspectives of others while holding firm to their own. Through the dynamic interplay of empathic listening, perspective giving, and perspective taking, we’ll unveil stories and experiences that nurture feelings of connection—even across lines of difference. Through hands-on practice, participants will explore these skills and gain a deeper understanding of the compelling research that underpins these bridging practices and brings to life the Greater Good Science Center's widely acclaimed Bridging Differences Playbook. As you depart this workshop, you'll carry with you:

  • A profound grasp of the research supporting bridging practices
  • Enhanced skills in empathic listening, perspective giving and perspective taking
  • A wealth of resources to support your internal and external work to bridge differences

Facilitators: Allison Briscoe-Smith, Ph.D., Senior Fellow, Greater Good Science Center; Juliana Tafur, Bridging Differences Program Director, Greater Good Science Center

About the Greater Good Science Center: The Greater Good Science Center (GGSC) turns research into action. Based at the University of California, Berkeley, the GGSC explores the roots of happiness and purpose, strong social bonds, and compassionate communities—the science of a meaningful life. For more than two decades, the center has widely translated and disseminated this science to the public, including through its award-winning online magazine, Greater Good. Since 2018, the GGSC's Bridging Differences program has combined science and storytelling to address the critical challenge of political and cultural polarization. The program spotlights key research-driven principles that foster positive dialogue, relationships, and understanding across group lines. With workshops, learning fellowships, and a plethora of multimedia resources—including articles, videos, an online course, and a Bridging Differences Playbook—the program offers practical strategies to transcend divisions and expand our circles of care and connection.

From Tolerating Tension to Productive Pluralism: Leading in a Religiously Diverse World

Religious diversity is a strength in America and in each of our communities. It takes knowledge, an open attitude, and skill to engage that diversity to build healthier communities as philanthropic leaders work in partnership with community faith leaders to effectively tackle the most pressing needs of our day. This workshop will introduce the social science behind Interfaith America’s methodology of respect – relate – cooperate and utilize a case study for participants to explore the ecosystem of institutions and leaders that impacts a community’s ability to address tension. The session will close with additional tools to go deeper on religious literacy, shared values dialogue, and tools for navigating tension. This interactive session will build participants’ confidence and capacity to move from religious diversity (a fact) to pluralism (engagement across diversity) within and beyond their organizations.

Facilitators: Becca Hartman-Pickerill, Senior Director of Democracy Initiatives, Interfaith America; Jenan Mohajir, Vice President of External Affairs, Interfaith America

About Interfaith America: Interfaith America’s mission is to inspire, equip, and connect leaders and institutions to unlock the potential of America's religious diversity. Founded in 2002 on the idea that religious difference should serve as a bridge of cooperation rather than a barrier of division, the organization devotes its energies to serve as a catalyst, resource, and partner to engage religious diversity in positive and productive ways. Interfaith America has evolved from a small Chicago-based nonprofit to the leading civic interfaith institution in the world, partnering with corporations and businesses, leading civic organizations and networks, and over 600 colleges and universities throughout the U.S. We recognize that religion is the core of many people’s identities, a source of inspiration to serve others, and a major contributor to social capital. Religious diversity is indeed a foundational American strength and Interfaith America’s vision is to build a nation that achieves that promise for the common good.

Building a Culture of Dialogue Across Difference

This workshop will provide a framework and foundational skills for navigating differences surrounding charged issues facing our country, communities, and organizations. This training will be applicable to interpersonal communication, group facilitation, public speaking, and decision-making – all things that philanthropic leaders are called to engage in. Participants will exchange their own views and experiences, surface differences and commonalities, and practice specific communication skills for addressing differences directly and constructively. The workshop will build participants’ capacity to explore disagreements while strengthening relationships, trust, learning, and collaboration.
Participants will gain:

  • Two core skills for difficult conversations across diverse backgrounds and viewpoints
  • An opportunity to deepen relationships and experience meaningful dialogue on important issues within a group of philanthropy professionals
  • Increased capacity and confidence to engage charged issues
  • Replicable tools and exercises for building communication across differences in ways that strengthen connection, insight, and collaboration.

Facilitators: Brian Kastner, Director, Engagement, Council on Foundations; Leah Reiser, Chief Training Officer, Resetting the Table; Daniela Rodriguez Ranf, Director, Leadership Development and Training, Council on Foundations; Kristen Scott Kennedy, Vice President, Strategy and Organizational Effectiveness and Chief of Staff, Council on Foundations; Melissa Weintraub, Co-Founder and Co-CEO, Resetting the Table; Nidale Zouhir, Manager, Government Affairs, Council on Foundations

About Resetting the Table: Resetting the Table (RTT) equips leaders and communities with tools and skills to transform toxic polarization in American life. RTT has brought together more than 58,000 people from a rare range of backgrounds, identities, and viewpoints, building the will and skill to transform political differences into a source of societal cohesion and creative problem-solving. Drawing on decades of combined experience and expertise in Israeli-Palestinian peacebuilding, mediation, and conflict transformation, RTT trains societal norm-shapers from influential clergy to grantmaking professionals to Hollywood showrunners and writers of popular shows like Grey's Anatomy and Handmaid's Tale.

Understanding and Overcoming the Rural Urban Divide

The Rural Urban Divide (RUD) workshop provides a concise but deep dive into the underlying causes of the rural urban divide and what progressives, liberals and moderates can do to overcome it. Developed by the Rural Urban Bridge Initiative, or RUBI, the RUD workshop brings together extensive research and a wide range of hands-on experience into an interactive process.

Learn strategies including effective communication across lines of difference, non-political community works to restore trust, developing public policy that promotes bottom-up problem solving, effective engagement with those who have dropped out of civic and political affairs, and guidance for community, political and philanthropic leaders on how to overcome the divide.

Facilitators: Erica Etelson, Communications Director, Rural Urban Bridge Initiative; Anthony Flaccavento, Director, Rural Urban Bridge Initiative; Cynthia Wallace, Executive Director and Co-Founder, New Rural Project

About Rural Urban Bridge Initiative: The Rural Urban Bridge Initiative (RUBI) is a national organization dedicated to helping people understand the underlying causes of the rural urban divide and providing tools and strategies to overcome it. RUBI has developed three program areas to accomplish this mission: Research and analysis into both the causes of the divide and effective response strategies; education and training designed to overcome the divide, which it provides to a wide range of both non-partisan and politically focused groups; and concrete action initiatives, including national policy work, such as the Rural New Deal, along with collaboration on local, non-political Community Work in multiple rural counties.

StoryCorps’ One Small Step: Building Connections Across Political Divides, One Conversation at a Time

Sometimes, bridging a divide takes just one small step. As philanthropy professionals, an important skill to nurture is active listening. This workshop will focus on lessons learned from StoryCorps’ 20-year history and its One Small Step Program that records meaningful conversations between strangers. During this session, seasoned StoryCorps staff will share StoryCorps’ methodology for building connections between people who seem to have nothing in common and play raw tape that challenges expectations and shows intentional listening. Attendees will also have an opportunity to get to know one another better by engaging in some of the program’s ever-evolving best practices.

Join this workshop to:

  • Understand the theory behind and lessons learned from StoryCorps’ One Small Step conversation model
  • Practice listening techniques while you experience a guided One Small Step-style conversation and get to know fellow attendees
  • Explore how you could take one small step in your organization or in your community

Facilitators: Mary Bess Ser, Field Manager, One Small Step, StoryCorps; Sandra Clark, Chief Executive Officer, StoryCorps; Emily Janssen, Director, Learning & Engagement, StoryCorps

About StoryCorps: Founded in 2003, StoryCorps has given over 642,000 people, in all 50 states, the chance to record interviews about their lives. StoryCorps helps people believe in each other by illuminating the possibility and humanity in all of us—one story at a time. The award-winning organization preserves the recordings in its archive at the Library of Congress, the largest single collection of human voices ever gathered, and shares select stories with the public through StoryCorps’ podcast, radio broadcasts, animated shorts, digital platforms, and best-selling books. These powerful human stories reflect the vast range of American experiences and remind us how much more we have in common than what divides us. StoryCorps is especially committed to capturing and amplifying voices least heard in the media. The StoryCorps MobileBooth, an Airstream trailer that has been transformed into a traveling recording booth, crisscrosses the country year-round gathering the stories of people nationwide.

The Better Arguments Project: Transforming Polarization into Productive Dialogue in Philanthropy

In today's climate of rising social divisions and polarization, how can we utilize arguments as tools for understanding and bridge building? This workshop will equip philanthropic leaders with the strategies and skills needed to counteract discord and see disagreements not as obstacles but as opportunities for growth and collaboration. Attend this immersive learning experience to harness the power of arguments and turn potential conflicts into productive dialogues. Participants will:

  • Delve into the critical role of disagreements in fostering productive discourse
  • Understand how constructive arguments can act as catalysts for positive change, bridging societal divides and strengthening our shared sense of purpose
  • Explore the comprehensive framework that underpins the Better Arguments Project.
  • Engage in hands-on activities and discussions to apply the framework to real-world scenarios in the philanthropic sector
  • Learn actionable strategies to facilitate productive dialogues, promoting a culture of inclusivity and collaboration

Facilitator: Katrina Hall, Program Manager, Citizenship and American Identity Program, Aspen Institute

About The Better Arguments Project: The Better Arguments Project is a national civic initiative created to help bridge divides—not by papering over those divides but by helping people have Better Arguments. In this sense, arguments don’t have to drive us apart. Better Arguments can bring us together. In partnership with communities and advisers around the country, The Better Aguments Project has synthesized three dimensions and five principles of a Better Argument. The Better Arguments Project is a partnership between the Aspen Institute's Citizenship and American Identity Program, Facing History and Ourselves, and Allstate.


Connect with Council Staff