| Program: || Citizens Project, Colorado Springs, CO |
| Contact(s): || Megan Day, Director: (719) 520-9899 |
| Purpose: || To create a community where differences are respected, individual rights are protected and diversity is celebrated |
The Citizens Project (CP) was formed in 1992 in response to increasing incidents of exclusion and intolerance within the Pikes Peak region of Colorado. One of the Citizens Project's first actions was working to prevent the city of Colorado Springs from disbanding its Human Relations Commission. When that effort failed, the CP mobilized a diverse group of community members to establish a private Human Relations Commission. The organization's goal is to facilitate the development of "a community committed to working beyond ignorance, prejudice and fear."
To carry out its mission, the Citizens Project focuses on facilitating programs, events and discussions aimed at engaging participants in dialogue about diversity, promoting tolerance and fostering increased understanding of differences. The program established "Dialogue Dinners," small dinner discussion groups with participants from different races, religions, sexual orientations and political persuasions. These dinners have led to the creation of an autonomous organization called "Food for Thought" (FFT), which facilitates face-to-face communication in an atmosphere of mutual respect. The CP also started a bumper sticker campaign to articulate the value of respecting differences while finding shared values to unite the community. In 1995, CP sponsored a panel presentation on white supremacy that yielded an overflow crowd. The CP continued this emphasis in the following year by sponsoring a community conversation about the film "Not in Our Town," which documented how the community in Billings, Montana united to address white supremacy. (The "Not in Our Town" program has also been highlighted by President's Initiative on Race as a Promising Practice.) The CP also organized "Faces of Hate: Global Racism and its Local Effects," a presentation and panel discussion, in November 1995.
Outcomes and Significant Accomplishments
As a result of the CP efforts, there are 60 organizations that support FFT. Nearly 800 people have participated, and some of the original groups are still meeting. There are also currently 25,000 bumper stickers in print, which read "Celebrate Diversity" or "Create Community." Plans are currently underway for a "Community Conversation on Race" sponsored by a broad coalition of organizations, including the CP.