How to Gather Across Difference with The People’s Supper

The bridge-building initiative offers wisdom for creating space to deepen relationships across difference.

When the peacebuilder John Paul Lederach reflected on his work with communities across the globe, he said one question sat at the heart of his work:

“Where did we nourish and foster the creative imagination that permits you to bring into the world something that does not now exist? That’s the real challenge of a lot of the work of conflict, is that you’re trying to bring something that does not now exist. That’s the creative act.”

The People’s Supper is this kind of creative act. The initiative started as an experiment to help neighbors, friends, and communities across the country organize group dinners where participants can deepen their relationships across identities and ideological differences. The People’s Supper was founded on the theory of change that relationships move at the speed of trust, and social change moves at the speed of relationships. As co-founder Reverend Jennifer Bailey says, “There’s been no movement for justice or equity in this country that didn’t start with relationship.”

Launched on January 20, 2017, The People’s Supper was initially created to make space for the conversations that didn’t happen on the heels of the 2016 campaign cycle. They’ve since applied their approach of gathering around dinner as an opportunity to delve into a wide range of polarizing issues — from sexual assault to abortion. Taking what they’ve learned from the over 1,500 dinners they’ve helped facilitate since their start, The People’s Supper is now more focused on engaging with communities through deeper partnerships and consultations. But no matter the format, the central question they bring to every community is: What needs healing here?

There are an abundance of answers to that question, so here are a few resources from The People’s Supper to get you started:

  1. Invitation to Brave Space
    Passed out at the beginning of each People’s Supper, this invocation lays out a set of principles that participants share for the evening. As co-founder Lennon Flowers says, “We don’t need to confuse safe spaces with comfortable spaces. And we don’t have to understand everything about each other in order to be present with one another.”
  2. The People’s Supper Guidebook
    This guide offers instructions to host your own community supper — from putting together the guest list and sending out the invitations (“Yup, a text thread can totally work.”) to discussion questions and follow-ups.

You can find more wise resources and tools on The People’s Supper website.