Promoting constructive conversation, especially between polarized groups, seems harder today than ever. Yet most people actually do want to connect. Solutions journalism can change the quality and tone of public discourse by focusing participants on possible outcomes and how to get there, rather than on what’s wrong and who is to blame.
Solutions-oriented engagement strategies not only change the conversation between reporters and the community, but also within the community itself. Examining issues via the solutions lens can ease the path to productive discussions on polarizing political topics, presenting an opportunities to construct shared narratives, enhancing civility and dialogue between disparate groups.
Tackling tough issues is often difficult without safe spaces where sensitive conversations can happen without fear and judgment. Creating these physical and digital spaces takes time and skill, but newsrooms have found that this investment can pay off in the quality and relevance of the solutions reporting that emerges. Moreover, these spaces often build a new connections between participants who continue the conversation after the solutions project or engagement activity has ended.
Our partners have found various ways to foster dialogue around change. Well-organized community forums make people more comfortable to talk about issues in an open fashion. A private digital space, such as a Facebook group, can provide the right atmosphere to catalyze conversation between opposing groups to generate ideas for further reporting and engagement.
“Everyone is in agreement that we need to be able to talk. And if you can just trust that, everything will be ok.”
“We were asking a lot of these teachers to bare their souls to us, talk to us about their deepest, darkest fears about the job they were doing with kids. We were asking them to be very vulnerable. They needed someone to help them with that all throughout the discussion.”
“A lot of engagement can be one-to-one (like Groundsource, Hearken) - but there is a different dynamic when you bring in a group together. There is a different kind of power in that. There is beauty in that. That often doesn't exist anymore in our society and in our democracy. Journalists should have a role in bringing that dialogue forth.”