What? So What? Now What?: Nebraska Unify Challenge

In March, Civic Nebraska and Unify America hosted the nation's first statewide Unify Challenge.

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What?

Surprisingly good things happen when we break out of our bubbles. When we set aside political fighting and focus on problem-solving, we tend to realize we have a lot in common.
That was the straightforward idea behind the Nebraska Unify Challenge, a first-of-its-kind dialogue among Nebraskans of different locations on the map and the political spectrum.
For several days in early March, Civic Nebraska partnered with Unify America to host the nation’s first statewide Unify Challenge, a series of guided, one-on-one video conversations about issues facing the state. Nearly 220 Nebraskans – from Harrison to Humboldt, from McCook to Wayne – took part.

So what?

 Reviews from participants about the experience were overwhelmingly positive. Ninety-four percent of those who took part during the one-hour sessions on March 1, 3, 5, or 8 rated it favorably, and said they found common ground with their Challenge partner. Some comments:
›› “I believe everyone could benefit from having this discussion with people they disagree with. People have a habit of surrounding themselves with people they agree with. Hearing opposing viewpoints is healthy.”
›› “It was a wonderful opportunity to meet someone from another part of the state, another political party. The format helped us dive into various issues. We see some issues from a different perspective, but we respect each other.”
›› “A lot of people become defensive and hateful when they disagree. This was very pleasant and enjoyable. I love talking about politics and get really frustrated when people aren’t willing to listen and see things from another side. This was a really refreshing experience.”
Of course, because this was the first Challenge of its kind, we also learned a lot about how to improve. Some participants wished there would have been more pointed questions or “hot-button” topics, others shared that they were paired with a fellow Nebraskan who had similar views as they did on several of the issues that were presented.

Now what?

We have reams of valuable feedback from participants, and we’re studying it closely. We’re also in discussions with Unify America to bring a new and updated version of the Challenge back to Nebraska in 2023 – so stay tuned for an announcement later this year.
Until then, we’ll leave you with a few thoughts from participants in response to a parting question: If you and your Challenge partner could give a message to Nebraska state representatives in government at your local, state, or national level, what would it be?
›› “All Nebraskans want a safe, comfortable life with fair opportunities for all.”
›› “Most people try to live their lives with their friends, colleagues, and neighbors with respect and understand people have different views. We need politicians to be OK with that, too.”
›› “Start with facts, then with factual problems or opportunities, then find solutions.”
›› “The people of Nebraska come from all walks of life, but have a shared interested in helping their neighbors live the Good Life.”
We couldn’t agree more.
Until next time, Nebraska – let’s keep the conversation going.

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