Founder of Civic Reflection Unleashes ‘Moral Imagination

ggElizabeth Lynn, Ph.D., founded the Center for Civic Reflection (CCR) at ValparaisoUniversity.  Now part of VU’s Institute for Leadership and Service, which Lynn also directs, CCR is teaching communities nationwide to use the humanities to foster dialogue, build understanding and inspire common action.  Imagine a community divided in its views on immigration. Residents attend public meetings to express opinions—but with each person passionate about his/her point of view, they talk at and past one another, deepening divides. Now enter civic reflection, a practice developed by Lynn to facilitate deep dialogue across differences. Trained facilitators invite participants to discuss a short reading (a poem, say, like Frost’s “Mending Wall”), before moving on to issues at hand. The room quiets as people think and talk with one another. Differences in understanding the poem emerge but are explored as valuable rather than threatening, and participants now feel freer to act upon differing values for the common good.  Solutions arise from reflection; moral imagination is unleashed. “The power of civic reflection  lies in accepting that the plurality of perspectives in a democracy are an asset rather than liability; and, in learning to think together, not just argue, in public,” Lynn  remarks. To date CCR has trained more than 7,000 people to facilitate civic reflection and led over 20,000 in community and workplace dialogues.

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