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National Governors Association Inaugurates the “Disagree Better” Initiative

The initiative is based on seeking optimistic versus pessimistic conflict approaches

The National Governors Association’s new “Disagree Better” initiative seeks to address the problem of polarization in American society by encouraging constructive dialogue and healthy conflict resolution. The initiative acknowledges that being nice to each other is helpful but not enough. Instead, the focus is on learning how to disagree in a way that leads to finding solutions and solving problems, rather than engaging in endless bickering.

The initiative is based on the understanding that a majority of Americans, often referred to as the “exhausted majority,” desire a more positive and optimistic approach to dealing with differences. It recognizes that reducing polarization is essential, and there is clear scientific evidence supporting interventions that can achieve this goal.

Governors are seen as crucial actors in this endeavor because they can model what healthy conflict looks like. The Disagree Better initiative aims to highlight existing solutions that various groups around the country are already implementing. It also involves featuring Governors who exemplify productive disagreement. The initiative employs various tactics, such as public debates, service projects, public service announcements, and more, to showcase a positive way of working through problems.

Additionally, the initiative intends to tackle a real-world policy challenge: the longstanding stalemate over immigration. By collaborating with the business community and other stakeholders, the hope is to find enough consensus among Governors to identify common principles around immigration policy.

The initiative acknowledges that conflict resolution requires effort and difficult conversations. It rejects the idea of attacking others and instead emphasizes the importance of healthy conflict to find common ground and improve families, communities, and the nation as a whole.

To achieve its goals, the Disagree Better initiative includes a series of public-facing efforts, supported by the National Governors Association (NGA). These efforts are customizable for each state and governor and include strategies like hosting service projects, recording ads with officials from different parties, writing joint op-eds on areas of common ground, and hosting debates at colleges or universities that model healthy conflict for future generations.

Over the next year, the initiative plans to hold four NGA convenings across the country to expose Governors to existing efforts and connect them with leading organizations to further accelerate such work in their respective states. The ultimate goal is for Governors to set an example of how to disagree better, creating a template for other public officials at every level to follow. By working through their differences, Americans can find solutions to the most challenging problems facing their states and the nation as a whole.

This article was provided to OSAP by ASAE's Power of Associations and Inroads.

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