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The members of Common Ground Tucson want to create partnerships and collaboration

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After the tragic shootings on Jan. 8, one particular word has become especially popular in the Old Pueblo: together.

Whether it's "together we thrive," "Tucson together" or "come together Tucson," the act of joining with others is in vogue.

While it took tragedy for "together" to become a widespread theme, some people have had this word on their minds for a while. Jack McDaniel and Tom Mendola are two such people.

McDaniel and Mendola are co-founders of Common Ground Tucson, "a monthly celebration of local community discovering and inventing local community." On the group's website, an invitation is put forth "to every group, organization, collective, congregation, school, club, small business and individual in the Tucson area to show up and share what they do and/or want to do to make Tucson (and the world) a happier, more peaceful, sustainable and balanced place."

"The core idea is about sustainable local community," explains McDaniel. "The technique to getting there, as far as Common Ground goes, is to establish relationships between the players in the community. There are all these really cool things that happen—organization-wise, event-wise and individual-wise—throughout Tucson. There's a mecca of amazing minds, but they are cliquish and don't overlap."

Mendola agrees that "it is time to overlap and recognize that we are on the same team, moving in the same direction to find oneness as a community. That's what Common Ground is providing the umbrella for."

Gathering under the umbrella will be those interested in a sustainable local community. McDaniel explains this involves a number of different elements—education, emotional/spiritual, solar, water collection, community-supported agriculture, alternative construction and so forth. And the idea that figuratively holds the umbrella upright is the possibility of the "collapse of outside systems that we depend on."

McDaniel points to the fact that the majority of food is trucked into town. What happens if gas prices rise more, and the truckers go on strike? "In the condition of massive and sudden change, the more people have built personal relationships, the easier it is to create cooperative collaboration." That's where Common Ground Tucson comes in.

The group's first event took place in February, with mixed results. In the following months, Common Ground began to join with other groups and individuals to create events. The latest was the Rock the Heart jam fest on May 22. The goal was to promote healing, civility and connection in our community.

Next up will be Earth Walk 2011 on Tuesday, June 21. Beyond the music, organic food, kids' activities and wellness-themed exhibitors, the big attraction is a 200-foot-wide labyrinth which will be made out of straw bales. Labyrinth-walkers will raise money for local and national nonprofits. For details, visit earthwalk2011.org.

McDaniel and Mendola are both excited about the Earth Walk event. It's an example of the celebratory aspect of Common Ground. "There is a lot of despair out there with the economy crumbling and people losing jobs. Common Ground wants to raise the flag that we are all in this together. Let the impetus be on celebration," he says.

Common Ground seeks to promote these types of events as a way of gathering people from different parts of the community. "I feel there's a really strong community here, but it's fragmented," says McDaniel. He illustrates this point with the mention of Many Mouths One Stomach and the Institute of Noetic Sciences.

While one group supports the expression of art and creativity, and the other supports personal and collective transformation, McDaniel sees common ground. Both have defining values of "expanding consciousness," he says. Despite holding similar core values, McDaniel reports that the two groups have not yet intersected.

Still, there's optimism, as McDaniel says Common Ground has "become involved in three successive convergent collaborations." The dots are coming together, he says.

Merging people, organizations and events for community and sustainability is one goal of Common Ground. Yet there's an even broader goal of experiencing "as much joy, love, connection and shared fulfillment as is possible."

Connection and togetherness has spiked in Tucson this year. If we can join together in the wake of tragedy, why can't we at other times? Imagine the common ground we might discover.

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