Who is Common Ground?

Who is Common GroundCommon Ground is a group of nonpartisan, proactive, everyday citizens in Southeastern Wisconsin, dedicated to identifying pressing social problems facing our community and bringing about creative solutions.

Common Ground’s strength is in the commitment of more than forty congregations, neighbor­hood groups, nonprofits, schools, small businesses and unions to take action on regional issues. Our 40,000 members live and work in four counties in Southeastern Wisconsin – Milwaukee, Ozaukee, Washington and Waukesha. We capitalize on the power that our diverse member organizations bring to our common goals.

Common Ground’s staff is made up of four full-time, paid professional organizers. We also have a Strategy Team elected by member organizations whose job it is to manage the business and guide the body as a whole. Issue Teams are made up of individuals who research, evaluate and take action on particular community concerns. Core Teams are leaders within each of the member organizations who keep their ear to the ground and inform members on the day-to-day efforts of Common Ground.

Common Ground is part of a national network affiliated with the Industrial Areas Foundation (IAF), the oldest and largest institution of professional organizing in the United States.

What Does Common Ground Do?

What Does Common Ground Do?At Common Ground, we develop solutions to our communities’ toughest problems – together. This is done through our Issue Campaigns.

We bring the city and the suburbs together. We identify issues, do our homework, get specific about what we are going to do, take action and win. The more we win, the more power and strength we all gain. We are a growing force in Southeastern Wisconsin.

Some of our Issue Campaigns include:

  • Increasing police presence in Milwaukee neighborhoods
  • Working with the City of Milwaukee to add 3,000 jobs to the Youth Jobs Program
  • Getting five of the world’s largest banks to give $31M to maintain and rehab foreclosed properties in Milwaukee
  • Addressing the healthcare crisis by creating our own healthcare cooperative
  • Working to make sure all of our children get a quality education

We build long term relationships with a wide range of people – business leaders, elected officials, school leaders, other community groups – because we need to work with others to get our goals accomplished.

Why is Common Ground Different?

Why is Common Ground Different?At Common Ground, we believe that by working together we have the power to change our communities and country for the better. We do more than just sign petitions and protest. We take action.

We identify problems and develop real solutions that will make a difference in people’s lives. Our dedicated volunteers and staff research the problem, develop plans, and take action. Depending on the issue, this can take weeks, months or years.

We at Common Ground believe:

  • People want a role in creating a better, safer, healthier community.
  • In creating these communities, we develop unexpected relationships with each other.
  • These relationships lead to a better understanding of each other.
  • Working toward common goals together gives us energy and purpose, assuring our goals are accomplished.
  • Accomplishing our goals raises the bar for new objectives.

Member Organizations

Member organizations provide the leaders that create and shape our issue campaigns. Their people are encouraged to participate in Common Ground activities in a variety of ways, depending on their interests, talents and passions.

All Saints Cathedral
Bethel Temple COGIC
Capitol Drive Lutheran (ELCA)
Catholics for Peace and Justice
Community Baptist Church
Congregation Beth Jehudah
Congregation Emanu-El B’Ne Jeshurun
Congregation of Sisters of St Agnes
Corinth Missionary Baptist Church
East Siders for Common Ground
Faith Harvest Ministries
First Congregational Church UCC
First Unitarian Society of Milwaukee
Gesu Parish
Hanson Dodge Creative
Hopewell Missionary Baptist Church
Immanuel Presbyterian Church
Inhabit
Invisible Reality Ministry
Islamic Society of Milwaukee
Issachar
JAM Community Builders
Lake Country Unitarian Universalist Church
Lloyd Barbee Montessori School
Marquette University for Common Ground
Mercy Housing Lakefront
Mt Calvary Lutheran Church (LCMS)
Mt Horeb Baptist Church
Mount Mary University
Mt Pilgrim Missionary Baptist Church
Neighborhood Children’s Sports League
New Life Baptist Church
OK Group
Pilgrim United Church of Christ
Praise Temple
St Anthony on the Lake
St Catherine’s Parish
St James Episcopal Church
St Luke’s Lutheran Church (ELCA)
St Mark’s Episcopal Church
St Martin of Tours Parish
St Paul’s Episcopal Church
The James Company
Tippecanoe Presbyterian Church
Unitarian Universalist Church West
Uniting Garden Homes, Inc.
Village Church (ELCA)
Washington County for Common Ground
Wauwatosa Presbyterian Church
WI Consumers for Fairness Association, Inc.

Common Ground Staff

Keisha Krumm
Keisha Krumm
Lead Organizer
Email: keisha.krumm@ commongroundwi.org
Rusty Borkin
Rusty Borkin
Organizer
Email: rusty.borkin@ commongroundwi.org
Kathleen Scott
Kathleen Patron
Organizer
Email: kathleen.patron@ commongroundwi.org
Julie_RowleySmSq2
Julie Rowley
Administrative Organizer
Email: julie.rowley@ commongroundwi.org

History of Common Ground

Organize and Launch
2004 — 2008

In 2004, a group of 38 religious, civic and business leaders who were interested in thoughtful and effective community involvement created a grassroots organization, Greater Milwaukee Sponsors. After a few years of discussion, investigation and planning, the organization was named Southeastern Wisconsin Common Ground, officially launching on April 13, 2008, in front of a crowd of over 2,000 people. In attendance were elected officials including the mayor of Milwaukee and more than fifty area congregations and groups.

From Problems to Issues
2007 — 2008

In the early days of Common Ground, investigative groups were formed around broad areas of interest. Several small campaigns grew out of this process, giving the new members the opportunity to learn and use community organizing skills. Notable among them was a campaign to petition the City of Wauwatosa Common Council to amend the zoning restrictions preventing Transformation City Church from using the Rosebud Cinema for Sunday worship. A campaign in Milwaukee’s Sherman Park neighborhood to address concerns about crime taught participants organizing skills, forged relationships and set the stage for a much bigger campaign to come – Milwaukee Rising. A campaign to provide affordable health insurance to small businesses, non-profit organizations and self-employed individuals was initiated.

First Major Victory
2007 — 2009

Common Ground had its first major victory with the Youth Jobs Issue Campaign. The Youth Jobs Team worked with the City of Milwaukee, the Milwaukee Area Workforce Investment Board and the Greater Milwaukee Committee by lobbying the City of Milwaukee to increase the number of summer youth jobs in the budget from approximately 1,300 in 2008 to a record 3,000 in the summer of 2009.

Change You Can See
2008 — 2011

Members and staff at Greater New Birth Church in Milwaukee saw that empty foreclosed homes in their area were attracting crime and causing safety issues. That concern was the catalyst for the Faces of Foreclosure Campaign which held accountable the banks whose lending practices led to the foreclosure crisis of 2008. Using steady pressure, the issue team garnered commitments of $33.8 million from five banks to rehabilitate 100 homes in the Sherman Park area, to clean-up empty properties in all of Milwaukee and to provide mortgages to qualified buyers. In April 2011 the campaign was rechristened Milwaukee Rising to recognize the victory and the positive turn of the campaign towards reclaiming neighborhoods.

Building on Common Ground
2012

Common Ground’s work continues with Milwaukee Rising, as well as the first Education Issue Campaign which focuses on the SES after-school tutoring program in Milwaukee. We were also proud to announce the formation of the Common Ground Healthcare Cooperative, a member-governed, nonprofit health insurance company serving Southeastern Wisconsin that will begin coverage in January 2014.

FAQs

What is Common Ground?
Common Ground is a group of everyday citizens, proactive in changing our community for the better, one issue at a time. An alliance of 40,000+ members, our focus is to create real and visible change in Southeastern Wisconsin.

What does Common Ground do?
Through specific Issue Campaigns, we address problems – such as the state of dilapidated foreclosed homes in our neighborhoods, the shortage of affordable quality healthcare, the depletion of a quality education for all children, and more – and work towards solutions. Through these campaigns Common Ground engages the governmental process, the media, and the public at large to break down barriers in the way of positive change.

What is an Issue Campaign?
Members of Common Ground continually identify the problems and concerns in our communities and work to fix them. These problems and concerns become our Issue Campaigns, and each one consists of research, relationships and action towards a solution.

How did Common Ground begin?
The development of Common Ground began in 2004, when a group of 38 religious, civic and business leaders raised $700,000 in seed money to launch our grassroots organization, then known as Greater Milwaukee Sponsors. The seed money came from the congregations and religious groups affiliated with the Roman Catholic Church, Lutheran Church Missouri Synod (LCMS), Presbyterian Church, Episcopal Church and United Church of Christ (UCC). Foundations, individuals and unions have also contributed. April 13, 2008 was the official launch of Common Ground. 2328 delegates from over 50 groups came together to formally constitute the new organization and declare their membership.

Who are the people of Common Ground?
As of 2012, we are a group of 44,000 people belonging to 44 member organizations.

What is a member organization?
Member organizations are dues-paying groups that participate in our Issue Campaigns and decision-making for the organization. They include congregations, businesses, religious groups, unions, schools, nonprofits, neighborhood associations and civic groups throughout four counties in Southeastern Wisconsin (Milwaukee, Waukesha, Washington and Ozaukee).

What is expected of a member organization?
Member organizations are required to pay dues, as well as to participate in events, actions, and issue campaigns.

What if I don’t belong to another organization?
Your work, church, school, union could join as a member organization, or you could get a group of people together and create your own member organization – that’s what the OK Organization did. Contact us to learn more about becoming a member organization.

Is Southeastern Wisconsin Common Ground affiliated with any other Common Ground organization?
Southeastern Wisconsin Common Ground is an entity unto itself. There are several nonprofit groups called Common Ground throughout the US, most of which are also involved with conflict resolution and community transformation.

How can Common Ground really be non-partisan?
Because our goal is to effect positive change for all, our efforts are not driven by one political leaning or another. Partisanship inherently creates division among people, whereas the goal of Common Ground is to find our commonalities and work together on issues that will change lives.

Where is Common Ground located?
Common Ground is located in Milwaukee, Wisconsin and serves Milwaukee, Ozaukee, Washington and Waukesha counties.

How can I get involved or volunteer?
If you are in Milwaukee, Ozaukee, Washington or Waukesha counties and want to participate in Common Ground initiatives, we encourage you to either have your organization join Common Ground or create your own (see What if I don’t belong to another organization? above). You can also donate to the cause and share the news of our efforts with your social network. For more information, please contact our lead organizer Keisha Krumm.

Where can I get more information?
To stay up to date on what we’re up to, you can ‘Like’ us on Facebook Follow us on Twitter or follow the News & Events section of this website. If you’d like to talk to someone, you can contact our staff for more information.