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Stowe On The Go!

Facilitating Common Ground for Common Good

The Harriet Beecher Stowe Center presents Stowe on the Go!
An enterprise that facilitates difficult conversations using historical objects.

In an increasingly polarized world, we need a way to find where we share common ground, so that we can move forward together. Support this effort today and double your gift, thanks to a matching challenge from the Hartford Foundation for Public Giving (HFPG).

All cash donations designated to Stowe on the Go will be matched up to $30,000 by HFPG. But we need to raise that cash before APRIL 24!

CURRENT CASH IN HAND: $60,106

Help us spread the message of civil discourse and the value of looking back in order to better understand our present and build toward a better future.

 For more information, please contact Executive Director Karen Fisk kfisk@stowecenter.org


STOWE ON THE GO

The Harriet Beecher Stowe Center presents Stowe on the Go: a new initiative that facilitates difficult conversations using historical objects and nurturing common ground for common good.

In a divisive, increasingly polarized world, the Harriet Beecher Stowe Center is an educational, social justice museum ready to help communities recognize and appreciate where they are united.

The Stowe Center leans into difficult and potentially transformative conversations. We work together with our audiences to assess needs, develop shared vocabularies, model discursive skills, and establish safe and brave spaces so together we can build common ground for common good. 

For more than a decade, the Stowe Center has successfully engaged diverse groups to facilitate topics such as enslavement, women’s rights, suffrage, resistance movements, labor issues, and the reason why we fought the Civil War. And we have tied those topics to current issues.

Why? Because the issues Harriet Beecher Stowe protested in the 19th century persist in the 21st, and we cannot progress as a unified community unless we understand each other.

Stowe on the Go, a new social enterprise, offers facilitated learning experiences to various groups to help hone deep listening and constructive conversational skills that lead to better understanding of each other. We use museum collection items to ground each conversation in historical context and provide a springboard for discussion that helps lead to common ground. 

Our approach helps participants practice skills for engaging in difficult conversations with open minds and respect for difference. A Stowe on the Go experience leads to more cohesive groups who better understand each other. Our goal is for each person to say: “I will think about what you just said.”

General topics include: 

  • Words Matter:  Exploring how our vocabulary and ways of speaking affect others 
  • Common Ground for Common Good: Fostering unity out of division  
  • Freedom of Expression: Encouraging responsible civic engagement 
  • Literary Activism: Using words to make positive change

 

WHY THE STOWE CENTER?

What makes the Stowe Center unique in the realm of team-building programs is our mission-driven social justice focus—and our story: Harriet Beecher Stowe was an ordinary and relatively powerless person—in a time when women had little public voice, few rights, and no vote—who decided to do something to right a wrong. And she succeeded. Her sentimental novel, Uncle Tom’s Cabin, became the 19th century’s bestseller, second only to the Bible, and it changed millions of hearts and minds, helping white audiences see Black people as people. Stowe’s agency, especially and necessarily viewed within the constellation of abolitionists, anti-slavery activists, and freedom seekers of her era, is the example we lean into when we build our safe and brave spaces for dialog. 

We use our unique and extensive collection of historical artifacts—letters, objects, stories—as a way to ground difficult conversations with ideas in tangible form. The Smithsonian affirms that artifacts and historical story telling allow us opportunities to consider how and why society and culture change over time. 

Stowe on the Go will take our proven methods out to the world in-person and virtually to help organizations assess their needs, build skills for discourse, and facilitate difficult, meaningful, and potentially transformative conversations. We will together create common ground for common good. 

OUR PHILOSOPHY

Change happens through the committed efforts of communities working for the realization of their shared values in the world around them. While individuals make up communities, individuals are also made by their communities; and neither individual or community can arise completely divorced from the broader cultures (language, images, art) and systems (law, education, government, and more) that surround them.

Stowe on the Go is a unique Diversity*Equity*Inclusion initiative built on the foundational idea that addressing and ameliorating injustice and inequity requires an understanding of both the systems and cultures that define and perpetuate them, and the orientation of individuals and communities within them. In fostering this understanding, and by weaving back and forth between broad cultural ideas and personal relationships to them, our facilitators guide groups through programs that are at once honest and unflinching, and also empowering, focusing on the ways in which communities can refuse, remake, and reimagine an unjust status quo.

Additionally, Stowe on the Go is about more than ideas: it’s about history, with an extensive array of Collections items from the Stowe Center’s Vault to illustrate and instruct. We root our programs in the past, with an eye toward elucidating its complexity, and then facilitate deep conversation about the insights and ideas the past can offer us now. From statuary, to jewelry, to letters, to children’s books, we use our Collections to look critically at how objects and texts can be a projection or a challenge of expectations for ourselves, for others, and for the world around us: at times affirmations of power-as-it-is and at times resistances to it.

Memorable and engaging, inspiring and empowering, Stowe on the Go endeavors to be an initiative that participants take in and then carry on, beyond two hours, beyond their group, beyond what they thought they knew.

These are our truths:

    • To be part of a community is to be sharing a ship. If the ship isn’t fixed, nobody sails.

    • “We can disagree and still love each other unless your disagreement is rooted in my oppression and denial of my humanity and right to exist.” ~James Baldwin

    • Humility is how you grow. Be honest. Say what you know, speak your truth, but always be open to the possibility that you’re mistaken. Or: I admit the possibility I could be wrong as long as you admit the possibility, I may be right.

    • Listen fully, then ask questions.

    • Language and visual representation happen through repetition. Repetition can be varied.

    • Unjust systems allow for unjust acts. Culture can sustain the acceptance (acknowledged or not) of unjust systems. Personal relationships also happen within cultures and systems. Identity emerges within cultures and systems.

    • Speak and listen respectfully. Recognize that certain terms and ideas, because of their history and contemporary use, are inherently disrespectful. Commit to offer alternatives.

MORE ABOUT ADAPTABILITY

 Because Stowe on the Go is a method, it is nimble. We can respond to current trends in subject matter and shifts in community needs. 

For more information, please contact Executive Director Karen Fisk kfisk@stowecenter.org.