Session 4: Free Speech, Hate Speech, Political Correctness: Struggling with Civility & Respect
June 19, 2018

Our national discourse has become infected with negativity. The boring, dry policy debates of the past are replaced by divisive political discourse in a charged political landscape. Battles over free speech and what constitutes hate speech and political correctness are enmeshed in tribal political identities. The speed and anonymity of social media and new media platforms have emboldened activists on the left and right. The norms of civil discourse can feel like a quaint – and antiquated – memory. These conversations are driven by passion and strong sets of values. But it can be hard to get to the underlying values when we are bombarded by policies we often recoil from on a visceral level.


In this session, we will have a panel discussion focusing on the impact of divisive communication on the ability of companies and organizations to do their work:

  • Kara Laverde, Deputy Director, People & Organization Potential at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation

  • Michelle Diggles, Deputy Editor and Research Director, Bloomberg Cities


Then we will focus on tools in order to help:

  • How can we engage in productive political conversations?

  • How can we harness our emotions to understand our perspective and those of others?

  • When we know we can only control our own responses and not those of others, how can we set ourselves up for successful difficult conversations?


To build greater capacity for Inclusion Provocateurs, this session will use polarities to unpack our personal assumptions and how they manifest in ongoing struggles faced by society.  Each of us can bring civility back to divisive interactions and demonstrate respect, even in the face of seemingly oppositional viewpoints. We can all develop strategies to make sure we’re creating a space for the point of view of others alongside our own.


Learning Objectives: By the end of this session, participants will increase their competency as “inclusion provocateurs” by:

  • Learning or refreshing their understanding of the basics of Polarity Theory/Paradoxical Thinking.

  • Learning or refreshing their understanding of Question Thinking.

  • Being able to apply Question Thinking and paradoxical thinking to political discussions.

  • Understanding one’s own values and underlying assumptions, as well as those of others.

  • Building an action plan to create space for civil discourse.


Michelle Diggles is the Deputy Editor for Research of the Bloomberg Cities Content Unit at Freedman Consulting, LLC. Drawing upon decades of political experience and multi-method research expertise, Dr. Diggles unearths knowledge and insights from public sector innovation at the municipal level to help practitioners better engage and serve their communities. Her facilitation style builds on experience with grassroots organizing and emphasizes hands-on training, real life examples and tangible take-aways. She has conducted workshops, served as a peer mentor, and hosted numerous trainings and briefings for young professionals, mid-career professionals, and rank-and-file union members.


She previously was the lead public opinion and political analyst at the Washington, DC-based think tank Third Way, served as an advocate for students and tenants, and worked on several political campaigns. Dr. Diggles was a professor of international affairs and political science at Lewis & Clark College and has also taught at American University, the University of Oregon, and Portland State University. Her work has appeared in such outlets as MSNBC, FOX News, Washington Journal, The Atlantic, The National Journal, USA Today, Real Clear Politics, Politico, The Washington Post, and Slate.


Michelle earned her Bachelor of Science in Political Science at the University of Wisconsin at Madison and her Doctor of Philosophy at the University of Oregon.

Lindsay Burr, Partner with The Yarbrough Group, focuses on developing the next generation of leadership, bringing in the perspective of women and the experience of generations X and Y.  She leads training in interpersonal, group, and organizational conflict resolution techniques; facilitates team development, and strategic planning; and coaches individuals so they can reach their full potential.


Lindsay graduated from Wellesley College with a degree in Political Science and has her Masters from George Mason University School for Conflict Analysis and Resolution (S-CAR). Her studies have focused on engaging women in peace building processes in post-conflict context. She is a recent graduate of the Mastery level class of Polarity Thinking. 


The majority of her work has been articulating the underlying motivation for peoples’ political involvement.  Previously, she worked as the Senior Program Assistant for Governance at the National Democratic Institute (NDI) based in Washington, DC.  Lindsay also served as the Development Director for the Center for the Study of Gender and Conflict at George Mason University and a Researcher for the Woodrow Wilson Center for International Scholars Global Women’s Leadership Initiative (GWLI). Her background is in political campaigns and the impacts of policy. Currently she is consulting with the Women’s Forum (United Nations) on how to rejuvenate women’s leadership in western Europe.


Lindsay lives in Washington DC with her dog Sterling.