In the News

Check out our Executive Director Dr. Katherine Wilson's radio interview with Steve Scaffidi on WTMJ this morning!

March 11, 2020

Here's the link:

She starts at 1:27:30 and is promoting our Wisconsin 2020 series.

RSVP today at!

Great story from the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel about our Wisconsin 2020 Series that kicks off tomorrow!

February 20, 2020

Wisconsin's political debate will get loud as the elections approach. Here's how you can turn down the volume and be more thoughtful.

To learn more or sponsor this series --->…/wisconsins-heated-po…/4804851002/

Join the Journal Sentinel and its partners for Wisconsin 2020, a series of facilitated dialogues on the issues you are most interested in discussing.

Milwaukee area creatives call on employers to hire 1,600 minority employees by 2030

November 21, 2019

Members of metro Milwaukee’s creative industry are calling on their firms to hire at least 1,600 minority employees in the next 10 years.

5 things to know this week in Milwaukee: Nov. 18 to Nov. 23

November 18, 2019

It’s Monday in Milwaukee, and here are some events we think you shouldn’t miss. If you would like your event to be considered for this column, please email and put “5 things” in the subject line by noon Thursday.

First Look at Milwaukee Rep's THE NICETIES

September 26, 2019

Get a look inside Milwaukee Repertory Theater's The Niceties, opening the 2019/20 Stiemke Studio season. A bristling two-woman drama, The Niceties asks the question: Who gets to tell the story of America?

The Niceties will run through November 3, 2019 in the Stiemke Studio and is the setting for the fifth annual ACT II discussions program in association with the Zeidler Center for Public Discussions. Learn more at

2019 Frank P. Zeidler Legacy Breakfast Honors Reggie Jackson, Recognizes Facilitators of the Year

September 12, 2019

Start your day on Thursday November 21st with a celebration in support of an important cause! Join community, civic and business leaders who are passionate about bringing diverse people together to discuss issues of vital importance at the second annual Frank P. Zeidler Legacy Breakfast supporting the Zeidler Center for Public Discussion.

Milwaukee Rep Presents THE NICETIES Sept 25–Nov 3

September 04, 2019

Milwaukee Repertory Theater presents The Niceties by rising-star playwright Eleanor Burgess in the Stiemke Studio, September 25 - November 3, 2019.

In this riveting two-person drama, a polite clash of ideas between an ambitious young black student and her esteemed white professor quickly landslides into an explosive discussion about race, history, power and the American story. The Niceties stars Kate Levy (Fingersmith, American Repertory Theater) as Janine Bosko and Kimber Sprawl (The Lion King, North American Tour) as Zoe Reed.

Community, Police Learn to Cope Together During Listening Circle

March 05, 2019


Just as funeral proceedings were ending for Matthew Rittner, a 35-year-old Milwaukee Police Department officer who was killed while on duty last week, a small group of citizens and police officers gathered in the Clarke Square neighborhood to discuss coming together as a community during times of crisis.

Youth Police Initiative brings teens, Madison police officers together

February 27, 2019

MADISON, Wis. - Over the week through the Youth Police Initiative, local teens and Madison police officers got to see a side of each other they don't usually see.

Beginning Monday, the two groups met every day this week to learn what it's like in each other's shoes and build trust. Participants practiced their leadership skills and public speaking skills while humanizing each other.

Hi Democrat, I’m a Republican, let’s not hate each other: The quixotic movement to get opposing voters to talk

January 06, 2019

Washington Post

By Lavanya Ramanathan

January 4, 2019

Kristy Kaufmann shifted nervously in her seat. On the computer screen in front of her, in a Washington radio-station studio, sat Al Wood, a man she had never met, beamed in from Alabama.

Teens and police strive to surmount barriers through personal interactions

December 03, 2018


By Andrea Waxman on Dec 03, 2018 06:00 am 

Listening circles at the Zeidler Center often offer teenagers and police officers the first opportunity to see each other as human beings. 

Facilitated by the Zeidler Center.

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel Reports on the Zeidler Center: Red and Blue Divide

November 16, 2018

Bridging the red and blue divide: Despite the rhetoric it can still be done. Here’s how.


Dozens of groups across the country are working to get republicans, democrats and  independents to talk respectfully with one another. It’s working.

Community Starrs Donation Program for Non-Profits

July 03, 2018

The Zeidler Center is excited to announce that there is a new way to support the work that we do thanks to The Starr Group and their Community Starrs donation program! 

For every combined home and auto policy they write for anyone affiliated with Frank Zeidler Center for Public Discussion, The Starr Group will donate $50 to the organization in the first year. The Starr Group will donate an additional $25 in the second year, as well. What’s more, the insurance agency will do the same for all policies referred to them by any affiliates of Frank Zeidler Center for Public Discussion.

Join us tonight at 7 p.m. for a live discussion of criminal justice reform in Wisconsin

September 06, 2018

A community discussion in Glendale allowed participants to consider criminal reform in Wisconsin from all political viewpoints. A panel discussion and listening circles encouraged community members to connect through problem-solving discourse rather than focus on party lines. This event, Across the Red & Blue Divide, was a unique partnership between the Zeidler Center and the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, WUWM, and the Millennial Action Project.

Fellows & Facilitators: MKE Monumental

May 31, 2018

Presented by March on Milwaukee 50th, Still Waters Collective, and the Zeidler Center. Part of a series continuing the dialogue after the 50th ...


April 23, 2018

Conference attendees saw the Rep’s community engagement work firsthand with its Act II Program, a post-show program is a partnership with the Frank Zeidler Center for Public Discussion. After a performance of Dael Orlandersmith’s Until the Flood on Friday night, facilitators—also called “community responders”—from the Zeidler Center led small groups in discussions about the work and about current issues affecting the group’s communities. It was a powerful way to unpack the show, a docudrama about Ferguson, Mo., in the wake of Michael Brown’s shooting.

Talking to Children About Race -- Acommunity dialogue partnership between Zeidler Center and Ex-Fabula

April 04, 2018

Sherpherd Express, written by Evan Thomas Casey.


A partnership between the Zeidler Center and Ex-Fabula, the Fellows & Facilitators series dwells into the topics of racism, segregation, white privilege and white fragility. For this dialogue, fellows and facilitators enabled participants to reflect on how to talk to children about race.  

Initiative Connects Youth & Police to Break Down Stereotypes, Build Trust

March 29, 2018


Lake Effect's Joy Powers with Jay Paris, director of Youth Link at the North American Family Institute.

Jay Paris has been at the front lines in several cities, working to improve the relationships between Youth and Police. Paris is the director of Youth Link at the North American Family Institute, a Boston-based organization that offers training and mediation programs for police departments hoping to improve their relationship with local teens.  Facilitated by the Zeidler Center for Public Discussion.

Milwaukee Public Museum opens weapons exhibit

October 06, 2017

Among the spears, lances, daggers, swords, sharp hatpins, atlatls, sabers and arrows in the Milwaukee Public Museum's new exhibit is an ordinary looking Remington hunting knife and its leather sheath.

Frank Zeidler Center for Public Discussion Honors Its Namesake's Legacy

May 22, 2017

Tuesday night, an organization whose work is tied specifically toward civil discourse, honors the legacy of its namesake.  The Zeidler Legacy event highlights not just the power of facilitated dialogue, but Milwaukee's mayor who served from 1948 to 1960. Frank Zeidler was the last Socialist mayor of a major American city and spent much of his life after leaving office as a mediator of disputes. 

Zeidler Center discussions aim to foster better police-community relations

April 24, 2017


The listening sessions were piloted last year in Amani, Harambee and Metcalfe Park, areas that have had issues with police-resident interaction. They are organized and facilitated by the Frank Zeidler Center for Public Discussion, a Milwaukee nonprofit whose mission is “to foster civil dialogue and invite trust in the midst of differences.” This year, dialogues will also take place in Clarke Square and Sherman Park.

Social cohesion in Amani contributes to decreased crime

January 27, 2017

The Zeidler Center for Public discussion has organized a listening sessions to build a trust between residents and Police because "when the police and the community aren’t working together, crime often is higher and when crime’s higher, you feel less comfortable in your neighborhood, you lock yourself in your house and you don’t take back your public spaces.

Church shares results of police-resident talks

August 18, 2016

Maggie Angst, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

Read about the Zeidler Center's facilitation of listening circles between Milwaukee police officers and residents of Harambee, Metcalfe Park, and Amani. The goals of the listening circles between police & residents include: deep listening, speaking from the heart, building trust and relationships, & humanizing across boundaries.

Milwaukee and Appleton students meet to talk gun violence

November 19, 2017

APPLETON, Wis. (WBAY) – Milwaukee and Appleton are two different cities with different feelings about guns. Saturday, high schoolers from both communities sat down together to talk about gun violence. They found they see eye to eye on the issue more than they expected...

Dr. Katherine Wilson of the Zeidler Center for Public Discussion moderated the panel discussion, setting rules early on so students would know to respect each others’ views. It was clear early on that wouldn’t be a problem.

“They’re teens and they actually demonstrate a lot of courage and they are great examples for the rest of us,” said Dr. Wilson.

Beyond the Traditional Talkback: ‘Act II’ Adds Voices to ‘American Song’

May 31, 2016

American Theater Communications Group, article written and interview conductedby Lena Hoffman

This spring, Milwaukee Repertory Theater and the Zeidler Center for Public Discussion partnered to create “Act II”—small, group-facilitated conversations after performances of the world premiere of American Song, an 80-minute play by Joanna Murray-Smith about the parent (played by James Devita) whose son perpetrates a school shooting. After each performance, a community member would respond with a short reflection about the play from the stage, after which participants were invited to join trained Zeidler facilitators in one of many small circles of chairs arranged throughout the lobby directly outside the theatre. There the topic of discussions ranged from the macro issues of gun control and mental health care in America to personal stories about gun violence. In all, Zeidler facilitators led more than 3,000 audience members in more than 450 small group circles for reflective, structured dialogue. 

Below is a dialogue between Dr. Katherine Wilson, executive director of the Zeidler Center, and Leda Hoffmann, director of community engagement at Milwaukee Rep, as they reflect on the conversations that transpired during Act II, which ran concurrent with the production of American Song, March 15-April 10.  

To read the rest of the article including the interview, click below!

Before Bernie Sanders, There Was Zeidler, a Religious Socialist

April 01, 2016

New York Times written by Samuel G. Freedman

MILWAUKEE — One night in April 1948, when Bernie Sanders was a 6-year-old boy in Brooklyn, Frank Zeidler was elected mayor of Milwaukee on the Socialist Party line. He would hold the office for a dozen years. Until Mr. Sanders undertook his presidential campaign, Mr. Zeidler had been the last prominent and successful Socialist politician in America.


While Mr. Sanders is a secular Jew, though, Mayor Zeidler was a devoted Christian, who remained active in the Redeemer Lutheran Church here until his death in 2006 at age 93. As Mr. Sanders brings his quest for a “political revolution” into the Wisconsin primary on Tuesday, Mr. Zeidler’s legacy, both religious and ideological, lives on in a series of public conversations held by his lifelong church.

Perhaps it did not qualify as revolutionary, but on a balmy evening last month, the line of attendees for a discussion on the topic “Interrupting Racism” stretched out the back door of the Redeemer church. Hobbling on canes, hoisting backpacks and bike helmets, clad in hoodies, kente cloth and down vests, they represented a convergence of races, ages and political beliefs that is unusual in one of the nation’s most segregated metropolitan areas...

Bill and Mary Alice Houghton: How to start the conversation

September 07, 2016

William and Mary Alice Houghton, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel 

Journal Sentinel columnist Ernst-Ulrich Franzen and Milwaukee Common Council President Ashanti Hamilton are right when they say that to make a better public safety plan, an open public conversation is needed where every voice is heard (“Open government means involving the public,” Sept. 5, Opinions).

How do you do that?

We are the kind of old-time psychiatrists who after 40 years, realized how important talking is. But it’s hard work, takes time (there is always a good excuse not to) and guts if you’re going to understand the other person. Why is that? ...

Some brave souls still try to have a good talk. The Zeidler Center led by Katherine Wilson is setting up talking sessions between the police and residents in troubled neighborhoods. The way the center does it is by “structured dialogues.” The players in this form of meditation actually say their minds can be expanded, the locks released (“Before Bernie Sanders, There Was Zeidler, a Religious Socialist,” New York Times, April 1, 2016).

Could Abele and Clarke — maybe called just Chris and David — take part in such a discussion? Would you try it?

Zeidler Center Honored for FosteringHealthy Public Discussions

November 16, 2016

Lee Matz

Founded in 2006, the Frank Zeidler Center for Public Discussion is a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization that invites civil dialogue in the midst of differences.

Wisconsin State Senator Lena Taylor presented the Zeidler Center with a citation on its anniversary, in recognition of the organization’s decade of work bridging the ethnic divides in Milwaukee.

For 10 years the Zeidler Center has produced public dialogues. People with different views come to discuss, in a safe place, what they believe and what they think. It is done in the hope that the effort will engender understanding and acceptance of other people’s views and improve the community.

Milwaukee residents, officers find strength, trust in listening

November 28, 2016

Ashley Luthern, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel


For the past year, Milwaukee residents and police officers have met to do something that can seem radical given recent local and national protests centered on policing, race and violence.

They sit in a circle. And they listen to one another.

Everyone gets the same amount of time to speak. Interruptions are not tolerated. Generalizing about a group of people is discouraged. Officers are free to speak for themselves, not the department as a whole. The conversations are confidential and written reports remain anonymous.

With those ground rules, residents and officers in the Amani, Metcalfe and Harambee neighborhoods on Milwaukee's north side have been able to have honest, open conversations over six sessions this year. The police-resident listening circles are led by trained facilitators from the Zeidler Center for Public Discussion...

Ex-offender training program urges employers to be ‘bigger than profits’

October 07, 2015

Read the full Milwaukee Neighborhood News Service article written by JABRIL FARAJ 


Pro Trade Job Development, a training and job creation program for unemployed individuals and ex-offenders, recently announced the beginning of a push to secure commitments from 100 area companies to hire a total of 100 individuals in 2016 who have graduated from the Pro Trade program. The company held the first part of a two-day conference for employers recently at Manpower Group’s Milwaukee headquarters. The second leg of the conference, including a Zeidler Center dialogue between employers and returning citizens, will take place Oct. 9 at Pro Trade’s training facility, 3227 N. 31st St.

Milwaukee Film Festival Press Release -- Conversations Series

September 08, 2015

Milwaukee Film has announced that 116 film festival screenings will be extended through the annual Conversations series. This series of participant­driven discussions follow select screenings at venues near the theatre with engaging, small group discussions guided by trained facilitators. In 2015, Milwaukee Film will partner with the Frank Zeidler Center for Public Discussion for this series. Conversations are denoted in the Program Book film listings, schedule, and will soon be listed online at

Addressing Milwaukee's segregation through dialogue

February 06, 2015

Watch about the impact of the Zeidler Center's facilitated dialogue during Marquette's Mission Week focused on addressing Milwaukee's segregation. 

Making About: Racism -- A Community Design Workshop

December 06, 2014

This was an experiment in making together; a prompt to gather around the topic of racism to create, collaborate, brainstorm, negotiate and design posters in response.

Discussion Aims Take On The Challenge of Segregation in Milwaukee

October 02, 2014

WUWM Interview by MITCH TEICH & AUDREY NOWAKOWSKI discussing with Zeidler Center director Dr. Katherine Wilson the Zeidler Center's upcoming city-wide dialogue on segregation

Designers seek to catalyze city against racism

July 24, 2014

The twin problems of segregation and racial inequality have plagued Milwaukee for so long that even people who care about them seem to have given up hope that the situation will ever improve. At Milwaukee City Hall on July 15, The Zeidler Center team joined with others, including Mayor Tom Barrett, to launch the Greater Together Challenge. An innovative competition, the challenge’s goal is to generate ideas that will bring visibility to the city’s racial divide, as well as ideas to bridge it.  

Thriving Cities Revisited: Milwaukee Wraps Up Phase One

June 17, 2014

Part II:  WUWM Interview with Susan Bence. Milwaukee joins four other cities in the Thriving Cities Project. Each explored “what it means and what it takes to thrive in” their city. Listen about how the Zeidler Center facilitated this series of community dialogues.

Thriving Cities Project Aims to Build on Milwaukee's Successes

February 26, 2014

Part II:  WUWM Interview with Susan Bence. Milwaukee joins four other cities in the Thriving Cities Project. Each explored “what it means and what it takes to thrive in” their city. Listen about how the Zeidler Center facilitated this series of community dialogues.

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