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Communicating + Connecting Across Differences to Build Vibrant Communities

by | Jan 29, 2024

The United States faces a pressing challenge: a crisis in social connection, a vital driver of individual and community well-being. In an era characterized by increasing segregation and polarization, it’s becoming increasingly difficult for Americans to engage with one another, especially across lines of difference. To tackle this issue, More in Common, a nonpartisan research nonprofit, initiated a groundbreaking research project in November 2023. This research aims to identify challenges in connecting across differences, who in the U.S. is interested in connecting across differences, and why connection is important to them.

More in Common’s research seeks to understand the characteristics, beliefs, and behaviors of people based on their interest in connecting across differences. This understanding is vital for developing strategies that enhance social cohesion at the local level and crafting effective communication strategies to engage new audiences in bridge-building efforts.

Connecting across differences is paramount in marketing and communications as it unlocks a profound understanding of diverse audiences, allowing for the creation of authentic, resonant messages. By recognizing and respecting the nuances of various backgrounds, beliefs, and experiences, organizations can craft narratives that genuinely resonate with their target demographics, building trust and fostering connections. In an era where consumers seek relatability and inclusivity, the ability to bridge divides not only enhances brand reputation but also amplifies the potential for broader, more meaningful engagement, ultimately driving positive change in society.

Key Insights from the Research

  • Shared Responsibility for Connection: A striking 72% of Americans agree that they have a responsibility to connect with people who are different from them. This finding underscores the widespread recognition of the importance of bridging divides.
  • Interest in Engagement: Many Americans express interest in engaging in activities across lines of difference, with varying levels of interest depending on the outgroup and type of connection.

Many Americans express interest in engaging in activities across lines of difference

  • Norms and Connection: The research reveals a significant relationship between perceived community norms and interest in connecting across differences. When people believe that others in their community are connecting across lines of difference, they become more interested in doing so themselves. This effect is particularly pronounced among groups less inclined to engage, such as the Politically Disengaged.

Many Americans agree that greater integration of people with different background would make their communities better places to live

  • Challenges to Connection: Lack of opportunity is cited as the primary reason by Americans who do not interact often across racial, religious, or socioeconomic differences. Meanwhile, exhaustion is the top reason for limited interaction across political divides.

Fostering Connection in the US

This research carries substantial implications for marketing and communications professionals, as well as community builders. Here’s how:

  • Data-Driven Messaging: Armed with the knowledge of Americans’ interest in connecting across differences, marketing and communication strategies can be tailored to resonate with these sentiments. Highlighting shared responsibility and the benefits of connection can drive engagement.
  • Leveraging Social Norms: Understanding the influence of perceived community norms on connection interest can guide community leaders and marketers in fostering a culture of connection.
  • Creating Opportunities: Addressing the issue of lack of opportunity is essential. Community leaders can work to create more spaces and events that facilitate interactions across lines of difference.

What’s on the Horizon

These initial research findings only scratch the surface of what can be learned about Americans’ interest in connecting across differences. In the coming months, More in Common will delve deeper into this topic through quantitative and qualitative data collection at both the national level and in specific cities. Questions to be explored include identifying other cross-group activities that draw public interest, understanding what people mean when they say they lack the opportunity to connect, and discovering locations outside of home and work where people are connecting across lines of difference.

You can view a recent webinar by More in Common of these findings below:

More in Common’s research shines a light on the importance of understanding and fostering social connection across differences in the US. With these insights, marketers, communicators, and community leaders have an opportunity to contribute to a more connected, cohesive, and inclusive society. The journey toward bridging divides and creating vibrant communities begins with research, and this groundbreaking work paves the way for a brighter future.

Photo Credit: Darrel Und

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TrailBlaze believes actions and opportunities that create equity are critical to developing a society without division. Vibrant communities develop more efficiently and sustainably when division is acknowledged and reduced. We offer this perspective in every project we do.

TrailBlaze Creative

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TrailBlaze believes actions and opportunities that create equity are critical to developing a society without division. Vibrant communities develop more efficiently and sustainably when division is reduced. We offer this perspective in every project we do.

TrailBlaze Creative