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From Campfire: Rules of Engagement

Some of my work with leaders in the US takes the form of rural retreats. We deliberately seek a remote location for three days so that these leaders and policy influencers can get to know each other on a human level and listen to each other deeply. We call this Campfire.

At Campfire, we ask people to show up and be vulnerable. But we never do it without laying the ground rules.

How can we ask each participant to tell the group about the people and experiences that led them to where they are today or expect them to let their initial wariness dissolve without some parameters? Because, really, we want to get to a place where we see each other as human, where we respect whatever forces delivered each of us to this place. Without a foundation forged in mutual respect, how can we expect to discuss the state of democracy, civic engagement, and hyper-partisanship constructively?

So here they are, our ground rules:

  1. Be an active, constructive contributor.

  2. Commit to respect all points of view and agree not to weaponize.

  3. Assume positive intent.

  4. Be brutal in your honesty and gentle in your delivery.

  5. Maintain confidentiality about who’s in the group, what was said, and the details you’ve absorbed. In short, observe the Chatham House Rule.

We believe these rules translate into the foundation of a well-lived personal and professional life. We take them with us and try to live by them every day.

And we make time for walks, shared meals, and—whenever possible—conversation around a campfire. We’d recommend that you do, too.

Lori Brewer Collins