Tips, Videos, and Handouts

Make Shift Coffee House

Troubled by the political divide in Maine and across the country, Craig hosted a Make Shift Coffee House to help people understand each other.

You can learn about it at and find links to a news article, a radio show podcast, comments from people who attended, and links to resources about how to understand each other. Craig also wrote a Good Group Tip about it called How to talk across our political divide.

Craig wants to facilitate future Make Shift Coffee Houses. If you would like one in your community, let us know!

Here’s what Craig says in the video

Hi everybody. Hey it’s Craig Freshley here. I want to tell you about the Make Shift Coffee House.

It’s an event that we had right here in this room just a couple days ago. On a Saturday night, we had a band playing right over there in the corner, we had a whole bunch of food over there against that wall, and we invited into this room — at my local library — Democrats, Republicans, conservatives, and liberals. We invited them together for the purpose of having a conversation – in order to understand each other’s political views and hang out.

Look, our country is politically divided; more divided than I have ever experienced. So too right here in our state of Maine. We decided to try and bring people of different political views together for the specific purpose of understanding each other. Not to persuade each other, not to even try to come to agreement, but just to understand where each other is coming from.

Disagreement is fine, in fact it’s a good thing. It often results in really good solutions and really good public policy. But when we try to make solutions and public policy based on a lack of understanding of each other’s views, a lack of understanding where each other is coming from, in my experience that leads to conflict and it leads to bad public policy that has unintended consequences or simply gets overturned by the next political party that comes in. So when we are politically divided, at the very least let’s try to understand where each other is coming from.

So we made a Make Shift Coffee House for this purpose and we asked people to share from their own experience. We asked people to listen to each other, not to try and formulate counter-arguments, but to really understand each other. We made sure that everyone got a turn who wanted to speak, and we did not criticize each other. It was a really good discussion. We were pretty respectful and civil and I think a lot of people learned a lot of new things about different perspectives. I played the role of neutral facilitator.

All in all, it was a pretty great evening. We had 60 or 70 people come together. You can read about it at the website There’s a link there to a newspaper article, but there are also links to all kinds of resources about how you can facilitate your own conversations across the “red-blue divide”. There’s also a place where people have made their own comments about the Make Shift Coffee House.

At Good Group Decisions, we think that these kinds of conversations are really important and we need to have a lot more of them. If you would like to have a Make Shift Coffee House in your community, drop me a line and let me know. It’s something that I would like to help out with.

So there you have it! Just wanted to share with you what we did here in Brunswick, Maine, to help people understand each other’s political views.

3 thoughts on “Make Shift Coffee House

  1. Hi Deborah,
    I’m sorry it’s taken me a couple days to approve your comment and reply.
    You can learn about Make Shift Coffee House here:
    And if you want to discuss about how we got started, please just call or send me an email.
    Thanks for your interest!

  2. I live in NH and am organizing with a handful of other voters. We belong to RepUs. Your purpose and ours are aligned. I’d love to hear more about your early organizing days.

  3. Bravo for thinking outside of the box (or maybe even within the box) and then taking action in a positive communicative way! I enjoyed the very first Makeshift Coffee House in Brunswick and a few of them since around the state. I look forward to many more. We are trying to make a shift in our way of communicating with each other respectfully, bringing civility and humanism back into our democracy.

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