We live in one of the most divisive times in America’s history. The rhetoric across the country is one of us-vs-them, rarely crossing over into mutually agreeable grounds. This is most apparent for one of society’s most present issues: Immigration. It has been a leading discussion point, and sometimes a platform for presidential campaigns, as well as a topic of conversation for infinite internet feuds and heated dinner table arguments.
What makes immigration a unique topic, is that its benefits to the country vastly outweigh its shortcomings. If we all knew life in America is better for all of its inhabitants with a more open immigration system, the whole nation would come together on at least one subject, which is a step in the right direction.
We needed to approach the subject in a way no-one had experienced before, catching our audience in a comfortable context when they’re more open to new ideas, and not giving them any cues to erect their psychological defenses.
We sought to attract partners to contribute to our project to extend its reach, experience and message as far as possible.
The project was called Common Ground. This live, content-driven art installation empowered our audience to lead a new conversation: that immigration benefits all Americans.
Common Ground showcased immigration’s benefits on our economy, our society, our communities, the nation’s security, our culture and our every-day lives, and encouraged people to have a constructive conversation about it, there-and-then, reinforcing the message.
We created vibrant free-standing doors, and played video content touching on the different aspects of the immigration topic on screens inside the doors. We then gave our audience free food to sit down and take a moment to engage with one-another over the information they just saw.
Intriguing people with the doors, informing them with the video content, and engaging them with food led to constructive, rather than destructive, conversation that was naturally facilitated by the experience. There was no thoughtless shouting, no panicked rebuttals, no caps lock key and no logging off. It was a thoughtful environment that showed we are united on this country prospering, and therefore united on a more open immigration system.
When it comes to immigration, we stand on common ground.
We invited potential partners to participate in the Common Ground experience, where they recognized the importance of what we are trying to achieve. At the point of writing this, the entire experience has been duplicated for a second tour to travel to events with a high volume of our center-right demographic, as well as another light-weight touch-screen kiosk version to reach smaller events. 40 other partners are in discussions to expand the Common Ground experience.
We’re currently at 300% of our ROI, on top of our project being touted in the Washington Post, New York Times, National Review, NPR, Tennessean, WUSA9 and the Hill.
Common Ground seeks to make a difference in the real world. With the subject of immigration being as divisive as it is, online metrics are an unreliable reflection of positive impact due to societal pressures, the tendency to lack compassion and empathy when eye-contact isn’t available, and a commonly intense internet culture. Our physical installation has reached over 50,000 people, but our focus is on capturing a shift in people’s opinions after experiencing Common Ground, with qualitative data such as:
“It’s great to open up the minds of myself and people like me” — Anonymous visitor
“I’m going to engage with this idea of creating common ground” — Anonymous visitor
“I didn’t realize how much of an impact immigrants have” — Anonymous visitor
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