Common Ground Key Concepts

Participant "holding the sun" during a spring 2008 end of year leadership campout at the UCSC Big Creek Reserve.

Key Concepts

Cultural Creatives and the Cultural Revolution of the 21st Century

Proposed by Paul Ray and Sherry Ruth Anderson, the cultural creatives are defined by Ray as:

“An emerging constituency comprised of people who have participated in the social and consciousness movements that have emerged since World War II: the civil rights movement, the environmental movement, the women’s movement, the jobs and social justice movements, the peace movement, the organic food and alternative health care movements, the new spirituality and self growth movements, etc. Integral to the emergence of the Cultural Creatives is the emergence of women’s issues in the public domain. Two thirds of Cultural Creatives are women, and in many ways the new value system the Cultural Creatives represent is inextricably related with the fact that this is the first time in history when women’s values have been widely and publicly articulated.”

The UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights ( and the Earth Charter ( both are demonstrative of the Cultural Creatives’ agenda.

The Emergence of Global Civil Society

The term Global Civil Society is used to describe the collection of non-profits, non-governmental organizations, churches, and universities emerging worldwide to counterbalance the forces of economics and politics. Sustainable development relies on win-win-win partnerships that bring together the best from the three spheres of society: economy, politics and civil society. (Perlas, 2000).

The Commons

Wikipedia, itself an example of the concept, informs us about the commons:

“The commons were traditionally defined as the elements of the environment - forests, atmosphere, rivers, fisheries or grazing land - that are shared, used and enjoyed by all.

Today, the commons are also understood within a cultural sphere. These commons include literature, music, arts, design, film, video, television, radio, information, software and sites of heritage. The commons can also include public goods such as public space, public education, health and the infrastructure that allows our society to function (such as electricity or water delivery systems). There also exists the ‘life commons’, e.g. the human genome.” (

Peter Barnes adds that:

 “The commons as a set of assets […] have two characteristics: they are all gifts, and they are all shared. A shared gift is one we receive as members of a community, as opposed to individually. Examples of such gifts include air, water, ecosystems, languages, music, holidays, money, law, mathematics, parks and the Internet.” (

Restorative Justice

As Eugene McLaughlin et al make clear Restorative Justice is a concept which finds its origins in many sources, including: non-conflictual traditional dispute resolution practices, “faith-based approaches, communitarianism and peace-making criminology and abolitionism.” (McLaughlin et al, p.2). Its contribution to the reorganization of the social is the articulation of an alternative to formal criminal justice. It proposes “a philosophy and set of practices that are premised on an acknowledgement of the emotional, subjective and shared ‘lived experience’ of crime and justice.” (McLaughlin et al, p.1). Those practices are ‘partially decentralized, informal, participatory and communitarian. (McLaughlin et al, p.2).

Transformative Action

Transformative action is a synthesis of the best methods for personal and social transformation. As an alternative paradigm for social action that moves beyond complaint, competition and “us versus them” thinking, Transformative Action combines theories of nonviolence, positive psychology, and social entrepreneurship. The three basic components of Transformative Action are: breaking the silence that surrounds injustice; building an inclusive movement where adversaries become allies; and articulating an inspiring, proactive vision.

Compassionate Communication

Compassionate Communication, also known as Nonviolent Communication (NVC), is a simple yet effective methodology for how we choose to act, think, listen, and speak. It is a profound and powerful communication tool that aims to create a safe context for connecting to others in an authentic and vulnerable way. Rather than judging, blaming, or attacking, it is about starting with the neutral common ground so we can connect on an empathetic level by sharing what we are feeling and needing in any given moment. Learning NVC takes time and attention, especially to break through our habitual ways of thinking and communicating.


Sustainability is a broad ranging concept and social movement that points to the responsibility human beings have for caretaking the Earth and all its inhabitants so that the future generations may thrive. Advocates for sustainability often draw upon the concept of the “triple bottom line” that every system should strive to be economically viable, socially equitable, and ecologically sustainable. (

Regenerative Design

The term regenerative is often used to highlight the ever-changing nature of living systems and their capacities to evolve, self-renew, adapt to change, and self-organize; while emphasizing an important role humans can play as a keystone species to design systems that leave the planet healthier than they found it.

Wikipedia informs us about regenerative design:

“Regeneratively designed systems are holistic frameworks that seeks to create systems that are absolutely waste free… Whereas the highest aim of sustainable development is to satisfy fundamental human needs today without compromising the possibility of future generations to satisfy theirs, the end-goal of regenerative design is to redevelop systems with absolute effectiveness, that allows for the co-evolution of the human species along with other thriving species.” (

References used in this website

Childs, John Brown. 2003. Transcommunality: from the politics of conversion to the ethics of respect. Philadelphia: Temple University Press. 

Cherry, Daniel, and Jeff Spiegel. 2006. Leadership, Myth, & Metaphor: Finding Common Ground to Guide Effective School Change. Thousand Oaks, Calif: Corwin Press.

Facebook. 2012. California Student Sustainability Coalition. 21 Jul 2012. <>

Freire, Paulo. 1970. Pedagogy of the Oppressed. New York: NY. Continuum Publishing Company.

Hawken, Paul. 2007. To remake the world: something earth-changing is afoot among civil society. Orion.

Hawken, Paul. 2007. Blessed Unrest. 7 Jul 2012 <>

King, Christine and Todd Phillips. 2012. Restorative Resources. 23 Jun 2012. <>

Korten, David, Nicanor Perlas and Vanadana Shiva. 2002. “Global Civil Society: The Path Ahead.” 23 June 2012. <>

McLaughlin, Eugene. 2003. Restorative Justice: Critical Issues. London: SAGE in association with the Open University.

Natural Histories Project. 2012. Common Ground. 12 Jul 2012. <>

Perlas, Nicanor. 2000. Shaping Globalization: Civil Society, Cultural Power, and Threefolding. Quezon City, Philippines: Center for Alternative Development Initiatives.

Ray, Paul and Sherry Anderson. 2000. The Cultural Creatives: How 50 Million People are Changing the World. New York, NY: Three Rivers Press.

______. 2008. “The Potential for a New, Emerging Culture in the U.S.” 23 Jun 2012 <>

The Earth Charter. 2000. Earth Charter Initiative. 23 Jun. 2012 <>

Rosenberg, Marshall. 2003. Nonviolent Communication: A Language of Life. Encinitas, CA: PuddleDancer Press.

Sherman, Scott. 2008. The Transformative Way: A Practical Manual for Changing Yourself and Changing Your World. Self-published. <>

United Nations. 1948. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights. 7 Jul. 2012 <>

University of California, Santa Cruz. 2001. Principles of Community. 7 Jul. 2012 <>

Wikipedia. 2012. Commons. 7 Jul. 2012 <>

______. 2012. Kresge College. 7 Jul. 2012 <>

______. 2012. Regenerative Design. 7 Jul. 2012 <>

______. 2012. Sustainability. 7 Jul. 2012 <>