The Town Common is a non-partisan, community based organization whose sole mission is to be of service to Winchester in building a caring and inclusive community. Grounded in respect for all, our primary focus is to provide actual and virtual gathering spaces to:
- promote respectful listening, critical thinking, and constructive conversation
- inspire community action and engagement, and
- facilitate connection, collaboration and individual and organizational initiative
We hope to strengthen Winchester by reducing within our community the alienation, social isolation and hostility which profoundly challenge our country, and increasing the radius of trust that draws people together and into the center of our community life.
How The Town Common Began: Actual Gathering Spaces
Many Winchester community members expressed concern regarding the coarsening of national political rhetoric and the effect it was having on the respect and safety accorded to individuals both in Winchester and throughout the country based upon gender, gender identity, race, ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation, place of birth and citizenship status.
To provide an opportunity for listening and support, an open meeting was sponsored by the Winchester Multicultural Network, School Committee and Select Board at the Library in November, 2016, and was attended by over 120 people. A strong desire was expressed to meet again to identify initiatives that would speak to Winchester’s best values of inclusion and respect, not just of physical appearance, but of ideas and beliefs, while strengthening the active, non-partisan civic engagement that has been our tradition and so important to our community and our democracy.
Three more “civic gatherings” were held in 2017, each attended by over 80 people, and each marked by passionate conversation and a strong desire to build upon and foster a growing sense of civic engagement. The meetings were facilitated by an informal group of community members that began working under the name “The Town Common”. This name was chosen by civic gathering participants as best evoking the inclusive, welcoming, non-partisan mission of creating gathering places for community engagement and collaboration.
Those four civic gatherings were augmented by a Community Organizations Fair held on the Winchester Common in October 2017 at which more than 45 organizations were represented, where Winchester’s rich tradition of volunteer engagement and community organizations was affirmed and celebrated, new community initiatives were advocated, and communication, collaboration and individual and group initiatives were advanced. A fifth civic gathering, held in February 2018, featured workshops designed to improve communication and increase interpersonal dialogue about controversial matters.
The Single Biggest Opportunity: A Virtual Gathering Space for Winchester’s Civic Life While we believe strongly that there is no substitute for actual civic gatherings, participants felt that the single biggest opportunity to strengthen civic engagement and promote collaboration in Winchester, the missing resource that Winchester should no longer be without, is the creation of a truly useable website that would link users to information on municipal, school, and community organizations and activities. Such a website would facilitate active coordination and planning between community organizations, promote volunteerism and civic engagement, as well as foster constructive dialog across differences.
We believe Winchester’s civic life will be greatly enriched by a virtual gathering place. That it will enhance awareness of activities, facilitate collaboration among organizations and individuals and foster greater engagement by all members of our community. We hope that each of you will provide their best ideas and critical thinking to question, gauge your interest and hopefully improve the alternatives we describe.