Democracy Symposium #3 via Zoom - Thursday 6/4 4:00 - 5:00 PM EDT

"The Reunited States of America: Can We Bridge the Partisan Divide?" with Mark Gerzon and John Powers

Classmate Mark Gerzon will discuss the state of our democracy in a discussion moderated by classmate John Powers, with Q&A from attendees to follow the initial presentation.  This is the third in a series of discussions on democracy.

The session recording is available herenew window

Mark Gerzon - Bio

Mark Gerzon, President of Mediators Foundation, is the author of The Reunited States of America: How We Can Bridge the Partisan Divide. For a quarter of a century, Mark has been a mediator, leadership consultant and activist across the great divides in America and abroad. From Capitol Hill to foreign capitols to communities and enterprises in crisis, he has been a leading advocate for new, boundary-crossing, problem-solving kind of leadership. He is currently working on a start-up called the Democracy Innovation Lab to bring cutting edge design-and-prototyping practices into the public sector.

During the 1990s, working closely with the Rockefeller Foundation, Mark worked in divided communities to bring opposing factions into dialogue. The goal of The Common Enterprise, as the project was called, was to help communities develop a shared project that all competing groups agreed would serve the best interest of their whole community. Based on his grassroots experience across the country, he wrote A House Divided: Six Belief Systems Struggling for America’s Soul, published in 1996, which called for a “new patriotism” based on building bridges across the political spectrum rather than erecting walls.

Inspired by the message of that book, ten Members of the US House of Representatives invited Mediators Foundation, in collaboration with the Aspen Institute, to help design and facilitate the Bipartisan Congressional Retreats. Ever since those historic retreats in 1997 and 1999, he has been involved in many cross-party initiatives and off-site training workshops involving politicians from every party. He has also worked with scores of organizations active in cross-partisan work ranging from the Federal Executive Institute to the Stennis Institute of Government to the Council for Excellence in Government.

Recognized for his expertise in fostering cross-party understanding, he was assigned by the United Nations Development Program to work with countries encountering election violence and partisan stalemate. Working with high-level party officials, he helped build the capacity for collaborative governance in Africa and Asia. His key lessons learned are shared in his path-finding books Leading Through Conflict (Harvard Business School Press) and Global Citizens (Ebury Press: London).

After a decade of domestic and international trainings, he wanted to share what he had learned about the best practices for dealing with divisive issues and partisan politics. In 2006, in collaboration with Harvard Business Review Press, he published Leading Through Conflict: How Successful Leaders Transform Differences Into Opportunities. His comprehensive overview defines the skills that can spark breakthrough innovation among even the most contentious, polarized stakeholders both in the United States and (through several translated editions) in countries around the world.

Despite progress in many segments of society, however, hyper-polarization in American politics worsened. Determined to highlight the heroic work of scores of organizations that were already tackling almost every aspect of this dangerous problem, Mark joined with a wide range of colleagues — Democrats, Republicans, Independents and Libertarians — to launch The Bridge Alliance ( This network of diverse, powerful organizations is working together to create a “third narrative” in American political culture: Americans Working Together.

For the last thirty years, Mark has also served as president of Mediators Foundation, a non-profit organization dedicated to incubating projects that promote mutual understanding and the common good. The Foundation served as an institutional incubator for a wide variety of projects that are now pioneers in the transpartisan field, including the Bridge Alliance, and also helped convene many of the issue dialogues described in this book. For more information about the Foundation or to support its work, please go to mediatorsfoundation.orgnew window

Mark lives with his wife, the educator and author Melissa Michaels, in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains. He is the father of three sons, and the grandfather of seven.

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