The Great Reset initiative seeks to make difficult conversations more civil, less polarizing


The Great Reset initiative seeks to make difficult conversations more civil, less polarizing

PHOTO: Kalinda Fisher (left), founder of The Great Reset, leads the discussion Monday afternoon with (clockwise from top) Kevin Clingan, Kristine Etter, Drew Freeman and Steve Baum. / Photo by John McBryde

By JOHN McBRYDE

Sitting around a dining room table in the Franklin home of Kalinda Fisher Monday afternoon, five people spent nearly two hours discussing a subject that can be rather controversial and at times quite polarizing.

But as the group took on the topic of K-8 education in a format moderated by Fisher, a sociologist and the owner of the firm Advocate Market Research, no voices were raised and no tantrums were thrown. There were disagreements and opposing viewpoints being expressed about matters such as school vouchers, student discipline and homeschooling, but it was all done in a civil and polite manner. Participants listened as much as they spoke.

It was another gathering in what is known as The Great Reset, an initiative founded by Fisher and launched in October 2018. Gatherings are held monthly at her home as well as in other settings around Franklin, and the concept has spread to six other states and through the coordination of some 20 hosts.

“It’s really been one of those wild pinch-me moments the whole way through,” Fisher said from her kitchen as guests began arriving for Monday’s discussion. “None of this was intended, and it’s been the biggest, most amazing gift I’ve ever been given.”

Fisher started the session by asking the question of whether education is a right or a privilege, and the conversation basically flowed from there. In attendance were Kevin Clingan, owner of an insurance agency; Drew Freeman, executive director of the Franklin YMCA; Kristin Etter, mother of three children and an administrator with American Economic Association; and Steve Baum, retired after working for the IRS, in the restaurant industry and elsewhere.

Etter and Baum were attending their second Great Reset, while Clingan and Freeman have been taking part since the start.

“I believe it’s extremely important to have these types of conversations to destroy the national stereotypes that have been established on both sides of the fence,” Clingan said, “and to make sure that we all realize that we are much more alike than we are different. In order for a community to operate the way it’s supposed to, those barriers need to be torn down.”

More: Community seems hungry for another round of On the Table, says Franklin Tomorrow

Freeman has taken the concept to his domain at the YMCA and now hosts a couple of sessions each month.

“I’ve been blessed to have an opportunity to do what I do, to interact with lots of different people with different levels of diversity,” he said. “For me, it is kind of cool to take what I get paid to do and bring it into a social setting. … I think what this does is, it removes polarization and lets you focus on your experience.”

Fisher’s idea for what would become The Great Reset came when she was participating in the Citizens’ Police Academy and did a ride-along with a Franklin Police officer. She and the officer had a lengthy conversation that Fisher gave a lot of thought to afterward.

“He and I had a five-hour conversation and we talked about everything, from parenting to politics,” she said. “I walked away thinking this was a great conversation, and I learned so much.

“I was sad that we don’t have these kinds of conversations often enough. So I invited people to join me around my dining room table and have these conversations.”

As it happens, The Great Reset began about the time a similar initiative was started by Franklin Tomorrow. The nonprofit kicked off On the Table last fall, and Fisher has been in discussions with Mindy Tate of Franklin Tomorrow about possibly coordinating when On the Table gears up again.

“My hope is that in each city there will be multiple tables, because I think that will encourage that neighborhood,” Fisher said. “I think it can also be fun, because once there are multiple tables in any one community, people can start to table-hop, if you will, and sit in on different tables and continue to get that consistently changing perspective.”

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