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Reducing Polarization and the Culture of Division, One Community Project at a Time

Innovation Fellow Libby Stegger equips today’s leaders to “solve complex challenges with a diverse group of people at the table”

Move for America Fellows 2022, Saint Paul, Minnesota.

What is Move for America and what inspired you to start it? 

Libby SteggerMove for America bridges divides and strengthens civic dialogue through projects designed to bring community members together to solve local challenges — from hunger to housing, literacy to police-community relationships, and much more. 

It’s been alarming to me how the culture of division has permeated all aspects of American life. I have four children and didn’t want to raise them in that kind of environment. I’ve been doing nonprofit work my entire career and I’ve always been a bridge builder. Our culture of division can feel challenging to wrap our arms around, so I started locally, one community project at a time. We can all do something in our everyday lives and communities to reduce division. It starts with getting curious.

What problem are you trying to solve? 

We’re addressing polarization at a local level. Many of us experience divisiveness in our everyday lives, and it takes a toll. We need to start by looking at the way we engage with our personal and professional relationships. We want people to approach conflict in a more constructive way, where it’s not about winning the argument but about deepening our understanding. Conflict is healthy and productive when we seek not to change people but to understand them.

How does Move for America work?

We have 6 fellows in our first cohort who are embedded at nonprofit organizations for a year, working on community projects that strengthen civic engagement. We train them and provide a cohort experience where they mentor and support each other. 

We recruit fellows from college campuses and community organizations, and after a rigorous application process, we do a very intentional matching process with local nonprofits. Each one becomes an AmeriCorps VISTA member and receives a stipend for their year of service. 

We are launching the next generation of civic leaders and getting them to practice ways of operating that are more compassionate and collaborative. 

Why choose a cogenerational approach? 

Our fellows are engaging in their communities where there are always multiple generations at the table. They are bringing generations together to work on collaborative community solutions. It only makes sense to look at this work through an intergenerational lens.

What’s your big, audacious vision? If you succeed, what change will we see? 

I’d like to be able to support hundreds of fellows across the country and see this new cohort of leaders rising within the ranks and holding leadership positions that are dedicated to civic service and a culture of compassion. And, of course, there will be a ripple effect. People all across the country will start to feel seen and heard, to feel more prepared to handle conversations where there is disagreement. As a society, we will be better able to solve complex challenges with a diverse group of people at the table. 

How can people get involved with your work?

They can learn more at our website and, if they’re interested in supporting us, what we most need right now is funding to help us grow.

Favorite way to wind down and relax? 

I like to be a beginner and take up new hobbies. Last year it was indoor rock climbing. This year I’ve learned to raise backyard chickens. I love learning something new where I can practice imperfection and model for my children that it’s okay not to have all the answers.

Learn more about Libby Stegger here