Laura Chasin imagined a different kind of civic life—one in which people could speak truthfully and compassionately about what mattered in their communities without letting differences tear them apart. She and her colleagues turned their research on constructive communication patterns into a new initiative the Public Conversations Project (of the Family Institute of Cambridge). It was an experiment, a bold exploration. Following the murders of two women outside local abortion clinics, Laura became a co-facilitator of a multi-year, clandestine dialogue between Boston area pro-choice and pro-life leaders.

In the years that followed, Laura and the founders applied this singular method—which combined elements of family therapy, neuroscience, and mediation—to a wide range of issues and communities. Today, 26 years after Laura gathered her colleagues to address the pain she saw in civil society, the goal remains the same: equipping individuals and communities to not simply survive with their differences, but to thrive, working toward a vibrant future for us all. In 2016, the organization of Public Conversations Project embarked on a strategic process to boldly proclaim the power and relevance of its work, connecting to new audiences hungry for better ways to be in community together. Laura shared and furthered the imperative to shift the organization from a philanthropy into a self-sustaining institution. After her untimely passing, the organization staff, board, and founding associates gathered to fulfill the plans to grow the message and the impact of the core and distinct qualities of the organization’s critically important work. Our experts have facilitated and trained partners to facilitate conversations on the issues most essential to a robust civic life, including: 

  • same-sex marriage and faith communities

  • immigration in America

  • gun rights in Massachusetts and Montana

  • gender, race, socio-economic class, wellness, sexual orientation, and mental illness on college and university campuses

  • inter-religious tolerance in Nigeria

  • science and faith

  • peace-building efforts in conflict-torn regions overseas