Why Us?

The Harriet Beecher Stowe Center is launching a new social enterprise this summer: Stowe on the Go: Facilitating Common Ground for Common Good.

In a divisive, increasingly polarized world, we aim to help communities recognize and appreciate where they are united.

Stowe on the Go offers facilitated experiences 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 that better understand each other. Our goal is for each person to say: “I will think about what you just said.”


The Stowe Center leans into difficult and potentially transformative conversations. For more than a decade we have built our reputation and cultivated our skills for award-winning, innovative programing that creates brave space for addressing with diverse voices topics that were a concern for Stowe in the 19th century and persist in the 21st.

Our expertise is nurturing shared space where people are open to listening deeply to many perspectives and helping all discover common ground. We use principles of respect and integrity to help participants understand the nuances and humanity of differing perspectives. We use strategies that prioritize diversity, equity, inclusion, accessibility, and foremost, justice.

What differentiates Stowe on the Go from other team-building programs is how we use history to ground our topics.

In the 19th century, when women had little power and no vote, Harriet Beecher Stowe wrote a novel that helped galvanize the movement to end slavery. Stowe’s sentimental anti-slavery novel Uncle Tom’s Cabin became an international bestseller, second only to the Bible in sales. Stowe cultivated her ability to change hearts and minds through discussion and civic engagement. In social circles that did not shy away from dissent, Stowe learned that words matter, commonalities among humans evoke empathy, and speaking up is imperative.

The issues Stowe wrote to protest in the 19th century persist today—dehumanization and hate mongering in particular are leading us to increasing polarization. At the Stowe Center we ground all programming with tangible historical artifacts and compelling storytelling to provide the foundation for the difficult discussions we pursue together.

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. 


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 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.

For more information, please contact Mariangie Pena, Stowe on the Go Sales and Marking Manager.

Revenue from this social enterprise directly fund the mission of the Stowe Center!