Universal Basic Income

Conversation Guide

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The idea of a Universal Basic Income (UBI) or National Guaranteed Income has been around for decades with a recent rise in popularity post COVID-19. Successful pilots and proposed programs in Spain, Stockton California, and among Silicon Valley tech leaders have identified its potential to alleviate poverty. Some fear UBI will create dependency or encourage people to stay out of the workforce while others see it as a way to stimulate the economy. In a recent conversation, two former US presidential candidates- Julian Castro, Democrat, and John Kasich, Republican, looked for common ground across party lines. Kasich highlighted the need to “thread the needle” between avoiding a system that encourages people not to work while at the same time not having a system that doesn’t help people making their way to work. This conversation invites you to consider how a program like UBI could impact your life and community.

Background Information:

This guide was created in collaboration with our partner, Common Ground Committee, a citizen-led nonprofit focused on finding common ground and reducing polarization for a stronger nation. We recommend watching this brief video by them, featuring a short conversation on UBI between John Kasich and Julian Castro. common ground committee logo

Let's Get Started!

Living Room Conversations offers a simple, sociable and structured way to practice communicating across differences while building understanding and relationships. Typically, 4-6 people meet in person or by video call for about 90 minutes to listen to and be heard by others on one of our nearly 100 topics. Rather than debating or convincing others, we take turns talking to share, learn, and be curious. No preparation is required, though background links with balanced views are available on some topic pages online. Anyone can host using these italicized instructions. Hosts also participate. 

Why We're Here (~10 min)

Each participant has 1 minute to introduce themselves.

Share your name, where you live, what drew you here, and if this is your first conversation.

Conversation Agreements:
How We'll Engage (~5 min)

These will set the tone of our conversation; participants may volunteer to take turns reading them aloud. (Click here for the full conversation agreements.)

  • Be curious and listen to understand.
  • Show respect and suspend judgment. 
  • Note any common ground as well as any differences. 
  • Be authentic and welcome that from others. 
  • Be purposeful and to the point. 
  • Own and guide the conversation. 

Question Rounds:
What We’ll Talk About

Optional: a participant can keep track of time and gently let people know when their time has elapsed.

Round 1:
Getting to Know Each Other (~10 min)

Each participant can take 1-2 minutes to answer one of these questions:

  • What are your hopes and concerns for your community and/or the country?
  • What would your best friend say about who you are and what inspires you?
  • What sense of purpose / mission / duty guides you in your life?

Round 2:

Universal Basic Income (~40 min)

One participant can volunteer to read the paragraph at the top of the web page.

Take ~2 minutes each to answer a question below without interruption or crosstalk. After everyone has answered, the group may take a few minutes for clarifying or follow up questions/responses. Continue exploring additional questions as time allows..

  • If you knew you had a survival level of income, guaranteed, how would your life change?
  • How could a guaranteed basic income impact your community?
  • What experiences have you or someone you know been through where a basic income would have made a significant difference?
  • What are your hopes and/or concerns around Universal Basic Income?

Round 3:
Reflecting on the Conversation (~15 min)

Take 2 minutes to answer one of the following questions:

  • In one sentence, share what was most meaningful or valuable to you in the experience of this Living Room Conversation?
  • What new understanding or common ground did you find within this topic?
  • Has this conversation changed your perception of anyone in this group, including yourself?
  • Name one important thing that was accomplished here.
  • Is there a next step you would like to take based upon the conversation you just had?

Closing (~5 min)

  • Give us feedback! Find our feedback form here.
  • Donate! Make more of these possible; give here.
  • Join or host more conversations! With a) this group by exchanging your emails; b) others in person and/or by video call online. Get more involved or learn how to host here.

Thank You!