People in conversation

Getting Past Partisanship and Polarization: John Sarrouf at the Harvard Ash Center (Video)

Harvard University's Ash Center for Democratic Governance and Innovation recently invited EP's John Sarrouf to participate in a panel discussion of the role of community civic infrastructure in overcoming partisanship and polarization.

Driven by hyperpolarization and partisan media, they write in the event description, Americans are demonizing and othering their neighbors and peers with different views—breaking down community bonds along the way. To rebuild the civic fabric of our society and strengthen democracy, how can we bring people together and build community trust?

The answer may be community civic infrastructures, which are essential to enabling citizens to discover common ground and solve problems together. These are places where people feel safe enough to explore their differences, aided by facilitative leaders, with access to trusted local media and supported by the necessary resource.

In this panel discussion, community organizers, leaders, and democracy advocates explore examples from communities all over the country where this is working today. Then they discuss the challenge of replicating and expanding community civic infrastructure initiatives across the country.


  • John Sarrouf, Co-Executive Director and Director of Program Development at Essential Partners
  • Deborah Ellwood, President + CEO of CFLeads (Community Foundations Leading Change)
  • Elizabeth Green, Co-Founder and CEO of Chalkbeat
  • Shamichael Hallman, Senior Library Manager, Cossitt Library in Memphis, TN; Founder, Libraries as Bridges
  • Martha McCoy, Executive Director, Everyday Democracy
  • Moderated by Carolyn Lukensmeyer, Founding Executive Director, National Institute for Civil Discourse

If you're interested in learning more about building civic infrastructure in your own community, reach out to schedule a free consultation with one of our program team members

A writer, translator, and editor, Daniel Pritchard serves as the Director of Marketing and Communications for Essential Partners.