Civic Leadership

Conversation and community across our state

We held Together RI to learn where Rhode Islanders see opportunity and challenges in our state, and to create a neutral place for civic and civil dialogue.

What happens when Rhode Islanders from all walks of life break bread and share conversations about our state’s future? We found out during our “Together RI” sessions —20 friendly get-togethers that happened from March through May, 2018. Nearly 1,300 Rhode Islanders participated alongside their neighbors, strangers, and friends – sharing a family-style meal and talking face-to-face at schools and community centers.

The Foundation’s role was to provide the platform (and the food), then step back and listen. Independent professional facilitators guided each session. And a team of researchers from University of Rhode Island’s Social Science Institute for Research, Education and Policy synthesized notes and surveys completed by participants. The report provides aggregated, anonymous details by topic area and gives details on research methodology and demographics.

Here are just a few of the highlights:

  • The topics that came up most often were public education, the size of the state, natural resources and open spaces, housing, public transportation, and diversity.
  • Our coastal environment, the beauty of the state, and a focus on green energy and environmentally-friendly policies are seen as major strengths for Rhode Island.
  • Farms, food, restaurants, and tourism all present opportunities for economic success.
  • Participants noted social issues that represent challenges to individuals and families in our state – lack of employment, drug and alcohol use, inequality, aging, and homelessness.
  • Rhode Island’s strong sense of community and small size are seen as both strengths and opportunities for our state.
  • The public education system and issues related to government and politics were overwhelmingly viewed as challenges.
  • More than 72 percent of survey respondents said that, after attending, they better understand the issues their community faces.
  • Nearly 75 percent said that after participating in Together RI they are now more likely to get involved in community issues.
  • 99 percent of survey respondents reported meeting someone new.

We held the Together RI events with two goals in mind. First, to identify where individual Rhode Islanders see opportunity and where they see challenges in our state. And second, to create a neutral place for civic and civil dialogue on critical topics, a place where divisiveness and polarization were left at the door.

Thanks to the thoughtful and enthusiastic participation of so many Rhode Islanders, we accomplished those goals – together.

To see the report, visit, https://web.uri.edu/ssirep/home/policy-reports/.