Common Ground for Action (CGA) online forums allow you to exchange views with others about important issues facing the country.
Forums are nonpartisan and moderated.
Participants look at different ways of approaching issues like health care, foreign policy, immigration, the opioid crisis and others.
In small online groups, participants weigh actions that might help solve the problem.
At the end of each forum, participants will see where they’ve reached common ground.
Forums are scheduled at specific times and generally last about two hours.
What happens in a Common Ground for Action online forum?
In a Common Ground for Action online forum, you exchange views online with others in a nonpartisan, small-group discussion that is moderated and generally lasts about two hours.
CGA forums offer:
- A thought-provoking, structured way for people to have these conversations
- A way for people to learn more about alternatives for solving major problems
- A chance for people to explore their own judgments on an issue
- A way to better understand the concerns and ideas of others with different views.
This 5-minute video explains more about what happens in a forum and how you can participate.
When is the next online forum?
Common Ground for Action online forums are scheduled at specific times throughout the year. Sign up to be notified about upcoming forums.
You’ll be participating in small, moderated group discussions, so there may be several discussions running simultaneously. Remember, Common Ground for Action online forums generally last about two hours.
What do I need to join a Common Ground for Action online forum?
There is no software to download; Common Ground for Action runs in any browser. CGA forums are user-friendly, so participants of all ages and levels of tech-savviness can participate with ease.
- Touch keyboard: Since CGA participants type in their comments, a touch keyboard is helpful.
- Full-size screen: Since participants look at proposals, options, and actions onscreen, a full-size screen is also desirable. Desktop computers and laptops work best; tablets with attached physical keyboards will work also. However, CGA is not set up for smartphones.
You can sign up for forums here. Your moderator will send you additional material, including an issue guide, prior to the forum.
I received an invitation to a Common Ground for Action forum—how do I get there?
The invitation email from your forum convener or moderator contains both a unique URL and a 9 digit numerical code that is your Forum ID. With these, you can:
- Click on the unique URL to go directly to your forum, or
- Enter the URL into your URL bar, or
- Click the button below and then enter your 9 digit Forum ID.
Can I join a forum right now?
Anyone can participate in a Common Ground for Action forum, but CGA forums are opened and hosted by moderators, so you have to either be invited by a moderator or sign up to join a forum that has been set up to be as an “Open CGA forum.” You can join any “Open CGA forum” listed in the Forum Calendar by clicking on the URL in the event listing.
How do I get notified of upcoming online forums?
Keep me informed about Common Ground for Action online forums!
Sign up to get interesting news and updates about Common Ground for Action forums delivered to your inbox, including invitations to participate in forums as they are scheduled.
How can I set up an online forum specifically for my community or group?
Common Ground for Action online forums can be organized on current issues like immigration, foreign policy, mass shootings, and opioids specifically for your community, school or college, or your professional or community group. Most NIF issue guides and advisories are available for use in CGA. Want to check the availability of a particular issue guide or advisory? Just email us!
We can quickly show you how to set up and moderate your own forum, or we can connect you with a network of trained moderators to facilitate a forum for your group. We can also make the insights from your forums available to you so you can use them to keep the discussion going. Common Ground for Action free for you and participants to use. Just email us, and we’ll get you set up.
Can I convene and moderate a Common Ground for Action online forum myself?
Teachers, professors, and community leaders across the country are using Common Ground for Action forums to get people talking to each other about the tough issues facing our towns and states and the country as a whole. Anyone can host a Common Ground for Action forum with the assistance of NIFI/CGA. We can quickly show you how to organize and moderate your own forum. We can also make the insights from your forums available to you afterward so you can use them to keep the discussion going.
Forums are organized by civic groups, churches, teachers, and individual citizens and by CGA/NIFI.
Easy scheduling across time zones
Standard but customizable invitations and reminder emails
Small group deliberation (6-12 participants)
Multiple small groups for larger forums
Easy, intuitive interface
Online moderator training
High-quality, non-partisan National Issues Forums issue guides on issues of concern like immigration and opioids
Simple but detailed Excel downloads after the forum make forums easy to analyze and communicate
Works on any laptop or tablet (with a physical keyboard)
Accessible to the visually impaired
We will never sell your data, or allow it to be used to identify you.
In the meantime, check out our CGA moderator resources.
Who makes Common Ground for Action online forums possible?
Common Ground for Action was originally developed by the Charles F. Kettering Foundation and the National Issues Forums Institute, two non-partisan, non-profit organizations that work on strengthening democracy. Kettering and NIFI are long-time partners -- Kettering conducts research on democracy in the U.S. and other countries, and NIFI works with local partners to host in-person forums in communities and on campuses nationwide.
CGA online forums are based on issue guides that lay out choices for addressing a problem and help users wrestle with the advantages and trade-offs of different approaches. If you decide to join an online forum, your moderator will send you an issue guide, and the CGA platform will help you walk through the choices and discuss them in a moderated, small-group setting.
We all know how tough it can be for people to have useful, civil conversations about controversial issues— especially online. CGA provides a structured way for citizens to have these conversations, to more deeply explore their own judgment on an issue and to better understand the judgment of others with different views. CGA also provides a wealth of easy-to-analyze information about the discussion and the participants that's often hard to capture in traditional engagement methods, making it easy to understand what happened in the discussion and to communicate it to others.
In some cases, policymakers use CGA forums to provide insight that can’t be found in polls, surveys, or even focus groups. Forum discussions highlight what citizens truly find persuasive about various options, and where they are, or aren’t, open to compromise. Each forum produces a “map” of any common ground that shows the level of support for every action from all three options.
Anyone can host a CGA forum with the assistance of NIFI/CGA. Forums are organized by civic groups, churches, teachers, and individual citizens and by CGA/NIFI. There’s more information here: How can I set up a forum specifically for my community or group? if you’re interested in hosting a forum for your community, school, or group.