Speaker: Shaylyn Romney Garrett

From I to We: Building a Nation of Neighbours

The thread binding together Shaylyn Romney Garrett's perhaps unorthodox career path - spanning diverse fields of research, writing, activism and social entrepreneurship - is community. "I've studied it, experimented with it, been fascinated by it, and been frightened by it," she says, adding poignantly, "I often feel that community is something I have thought more about than almost anyone but have less of than almost everyone."

After a profound 3-year personal healing journey, Shaylyn experienced the wisdom in the old adage "If you want to go far, go together." In 2019, she decided to spend a year engaging in a series of radically simple but transformative monthly challenges to shift from "I" to "We" - 15-minute connections, meeting her neighbours and hosting dinner parties - giving birth to Project Reconnect. When suicide rates, bullying, loneliness and polarization are on the rise, Shaylyn believes that such everyday interactions are where we do the "heart work" required to transform our hyper-individualistic culture and reclaim the power of "We."

Shaylyn is a co-author along with best-selling author Robert D. Putnam of The Upswing: How America Came Together A Century Ago and How We Can Do It Again, which has been acclaimed "a magnificent and visionary book," and "a must-read for those who wonder how we can reclaim our nation's promise" to once more turn the tide from "I" to "We". Her writing also includes uniquely revealing portraits of religious communities across the United States in American Grace: How Religion Divides and Unites Us, which won Princeton University's Woodrow Wilson Award for best political science book of 2010-11. Her thoughtful opinions, writing, and research have been featured in numerous outlets including TIME Magazine, The New York Times, National Public Radio, BBC Radio, and the PBS Newshour.

She is also the founder of Project Reconnect and a founding contributor to David Brook's Weave: The Social Fabric Project, an Aspen Institute initiative. Formerly, along with her husband, she co-founded Think Unlimited, a nonprofit in Jordan that helped thousands of young Arabs find their voice and their place as changemakers in their countries and the world. It won multiple international awards while also partnering with the Queen of Jordan.

Shaylyn holds a BA magna cum laude in Government from Harvard University, and is a returned Peace Corps volunteer. She’s also a certified Holistic Health Coach, as well as a permaculturalist who loves to get her hands in the dirt, and thinks a lot about healthy soils as a metaphor for healthy human communities. She now lives in Southern New Hampshire with her husband James Garrett, their daughter Sophie and son Aeon, and their loyal dog Dewey (named for John Dewey, one of her favorite Progressives!)

Join Shayna Parekh and David Bonbright for a conversation with this remarkable author, planting seeds for a new story of "we" in the garden of her own life and that of others.

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