Bridging Divides with Dignity
In 2018, a pivotal movement began with the formation of UNITE, aimed at addressing and easing the growing divisions within our country. Recognizing the urgent need for change, UNITE embarked on a mission to transform how we communicate, especially in times of disagreement. The milestone in this journey was the creation of the Dignity Index in 2021, an innovative eight-point scale designed to measure the quality of our interactions.
If You Could Help Ease the Divisions in America, Would You Do It?
America’s divisions are not just the result of disagreements, but more significantly, they stem from how these disagreements are handled. When faced with opposing views, the critical choice is whether to engage with dignity or with contempt. The former has the power to bridge gaps, fostering understanding and respect, while the latter only serves to deepen divides.
This understanding is at the heart of The Dignity Index, an innovative tool designed to make this distinction clear. It’s more than just a measure; it’s a movement towards transformation. The Dignity Index challenges individuals to reflect on their interactions and choose a path of mutual respect and understanding. It’s about transforming dialogue, one conversation at a time.
By taking the Dignity Pledge, people commit to being part of this significant journey. If you believe in a united America where disagreements are approached with grace and respect, then The Dignity Index is your gateway to contributing to a meaningful change. Engage with it, take the pledge, and join the movement that’s reshaping communication and fostering unity in our nation.
The Foundation: Core Beliefs of the Dignity Index
The Dignity Index is built on several fundamental beliefs:
Contempt causes division; dignity eases division.
If we put a spotlight on dignity and contempt, we will use more dignity and less contempt.
If we show Americans how they can help ease our divisions, they will jump on it.
The Public Debut: Making an Impact
October 2022 marked a significant milestone when the Index was introduced publicly in Utah during the midterm elections. It involved scoring political speeches weekly, proving to be reliable, fair, and intuitive. Key observations included:
- Bipartisan Agreement: Voters across the political spectrum found common ground in the Index’s scores.
- Media Engagement: The Index garnered extensive media coverage, including television, newspapers, and radio.
Transformative Effects of the Index
The response to the Utah project and subsequent initiatives highlighted three critical effects of the Index:
The Electrifying Effect: The Index sparked a widespread demand for briefings, training sessions, and educational materials.
The Mirror Effect: Initially used to assess others, people soon realized that the Index also reflected their own communication styles.
The Agency Effect: Engagement with the Index led to the realization that contempt is a widespread issue, but one that individuals have the power to change.
Scaling the Index: Core Initiatives
To expand the reach and impact of the Dignity Index, UNITE is focusing on three main initiatives:
Students for Dignity: Launching groups in universities, starting with the University of Utah, to foster a dignity culture among the youth.
Educational Tools and Workshops: Designing online courses and materials to teach the principles of the Index to communities and workplaces.
Technological Development: Collaborating with developers to create AI tools for journalists, browser extensions, and apps to identify and reduce contempt in communication.
The Vision: Dignity as a National Value
Looking ahead, the goal is clear: within a decade, ‘dignity’ will not only be a strategy in politics and policymaking but will also be a hallmark of patriotism and a key indicator of our nation’s well-being and future. The Dignity Index is more than just a tool; it’s a movement towards a more united, respectful, and dignified society.
The Dignity Index represents a beacon of hope and a practical solution to the growing divisiveness in our conversations and interactions. By embracing this initiative, we can collectively work towards a future where dignity and respect are at the heart of every discussion, policy, and personal interaction.
How It Works
“The Dignity Index scores distinct phrases along an eight-point scale from contempt to dignity. Lower scores (1-4) reflect divisive language while higher scores (5-8) reflect language grounded in dignity.
In its pilot season, a trained group of students supported by the University of Utah’s Kem C. Gardner Policy Institute and the Hinckley Institute of Politics scored selections from candidate speeches, debates, fundraising outreach, social media posts, and campaign ads in Utah’s federal congressional races.
By focusing on the speech and not the speaker, the Dignity Index is designed to draw our attention away from the biases of partisan politics and toward the power we each have to heal our country and each other…”
CEO & Founder, UNITE
Tim Shriver is married, a father of 5, the Chairman of Special Olympics International, co-creator of the Dignity Index, and co-founder of UNITE. Tim began his career as an educator and co-founded and currently chairs the Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning (CASEL). He earned his undergraduate degree from Yale University, a Master’s degree from Catholic University, and a Doctorate in Education from the University of Connecticut. He has produced 6 films, is the author of the NYT bestseller Fully Alive – Discovering What Matters Most, and co-editor of The Call to Unite: Voices of Hope and Awakening.
Chief of Staff & Vice President of External Affairs
Tami Pyfer is the Chief of Staff and VP External for UNITE. She is also a co-creator of the Dignity Index serving as the Utah Project Lead for the Dignity Index demonstration pilot. Before joining UNITE, Tami served as Education Policy Advisor to former Utah Governor Gary Herbert, where she was involved in state-level education policy development, coalition building, and stakeholder engagement. She held local and state elected office for 12 years, including 4 years on the Utah State Board of Education. Tami’s professional training is in Special Education and before her appointment to serve on the Governor’s executive team she worked at Utah State University, teaching coursework and supervising student teachers in the Special Education teacher preparation program. Tami and her husband Aaron are the parents of 5 children, and grandparents of 10.