2020 has been a year of unspeakable suffering. The lives lost to the COVID pandemic, and the livelihoods lost to the attempts to slow its spread have created holes in our communities – loved ones lost, businesses closed, traditions upended – that cannot easily be filled or cannot be filled at all. We mourn those who we’ve lost and we honor those who have worked to keep us healthy, and keep our families and neighborhoods afloat.
2020 has also required that we ask hard questions about who we are as a community. Whose lives, whose rights, whose property matter? Who is deserving of protection and to be free of fear – and how do we provide that protection? Who can and should have a voice? What care do we owe the planet that sustains us, and what must we do to ensure its well-being? Both at home, and around the world, 2020 has brought us face-to-face with the questions we have shied away from, it has laid bare the cracks in our society through which we let too many people fall, and it has made clear how unsustainable our current trajectory is.
But 2020 has also shown us the value of each other. It has shown us that even in the hardest and darkest moments, communities will pull together to try and see each other through. It has shown us the strength that comes when we each make the choice to look after those around us, to care, to protect, and to learn, and to try to build a better future.
As much as 2020 will be remembered as a year of suffering, it might yet be seen as a turning point, a year in which we realized the value and strength of our local communities and committed to applying that strength to both protecting those communities and tackling the global challenges that impact us all.
Because if 2020 taught us anything it’s that challenges can come from anywhere and we must commit ourselves to ensuring that when they do, we as communities, are strong, resilient, able to endure, and ready to emerge in a better place.
Common Ground Initiative
It is with this in mind that we are launching the Common Ground Initiative, a research and media effort to tell the stories of communities around the world who have found ways to endure and adapt to a rapidly changing world and who have done so in ways that are regenerative, equitable, aspirational, and lasting (or R.E.A.L.).
Pulling from various fields, CGI will work to identify the characteristics that are consistently linked to the health and well-being of communities, from the relationship with the environment, to the place in the global economy, to day-to-day connections between people and their neighbors. Our goal will be to distill lessons that we can all use to build more robust, sustainable societies. By exploring these successes, we hope to understand how to better take care of our own communities – turning them into powerful forces of positive change built on common ground and common goals.
At home, we are embodying this mission through our work and efforts to create a movement of conscious communities with a self-aware and sustainable relationship to the land. Our connection to the land extends beyond the practices and principles that we rely on to ensure that we give back as much as we receive; it recognizes the ways in which this forms the traditions, experiences, and events that bring people, families, and communities together. Experiencing community through the lens of food, we have the opportunity to not only create experiences that unify communities, but a way to explore and share the history, stories, and traditions that have become a part of our shared identity.
Understanding the deep connections between the places we inhabit and how this shapes who we become as a community is just part of the mission. As we’ve experienced this year, we are not just bound by our physical boundaries – communities around the world are connected, and often reliant on each other in unexpected way. Our hope is to illuminate these connections through the foundations of what unifies us to not only contribute to a broader sense of common ground, but to understand how we can learn and grow together at home and abroad.