Uncommon Exchange

Uncommon Exchange was a project of the Common Good Collaborative in partnership with the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, powered by ALF.

The community conversations, which ran from 2009-2010, was a new take on the traditional speaker series. They reflected the Common Good Collaborative’s inherent values of bringing together a broad, diverse cross section of people committed to building a stronger community, using collaborative leadership skills to identify and deal with complex regional issues, modeling servant leadership and exploring opportunities to work together in ways that make a significant difference to Silicon Valley.

The series was structured around a general theme of courage in leadership; what it means to make difficult decisions in a high-profile environment, especially when they might seem unpopular, using the ALF concepts of dialogue.

George Lakoff


On Wednesday, January 20, 2010, the third conversation in the series took place with George Lakoff, author and Professor of Cognitive Science and Linguistics at UC Berkeley. Lakoff is known for his ideas about the centrality of metaphor to human thinking, political behavior and society, and is particularly famous for his concept of the “embodied mind,” which he has written about in relation to mathematics.

His application of cognitive science and linguistics to politics has brought him national attention. His books include: The Political Mind: Why You Can’t Understand 20th Century Politics With an 18th Century Brain; Don’t Think of an Elephant! Know Your Values and Frame the Debate; ¬†Whose Freedom? The Battle over America’s Most Important Idea; and Moral Politics: How Liberals and Conservatives Think.

Lakoff has submitted a 2010 ballot proposition called the California Democracy Act that would roll back the two-thirds majority needed to pass a budget. The ballot changes two words in the state’s constitution, turning “two-thirds” to “majority” in two places, and in his opinion, will end the gridlock in Sacramento.

George Lakoff was in conversation with ALF CEO Chris Block, Class XVI, Joe Head, Class VI, President & CEO, SummerHill Homes and Anu Natarajan, Program Director, Reviving California.

Pictured above from left to right are Chris Block, Anu Natarajan and George Lakoff.

Presentation available in five segments at YouTube.com.

T.J. Rodgers

On October 29, 2009 ALF hosted its second Uncommon Exchange with T.J. Rodgers, Founder & CEO of Cypress Semiconductor Corporation and Chairman of SunPower, at the new Oshman Family Jewish Community Center in Palo Alto.

The conversation was led by ALF CEO Chis Block, Class XVI.ALF Senior Fellows Marc Jones, Class XVI, Aeris Communications Chairman and CEO and Visionael Chairman, and Diane Solinger, Entrepreneurs Foundation Executive Director, Class XVIII, rounded out the “fishbowl” format.

Pictured above from left to right are Marc Jones, T. J. Rodgers, Diane Solinger, and Kathy Jackson, Second Harvest Food Bank CEO.

Abel Maldonado

The first Uncommon Exchange took place on June 11, 2009 at the Historic Hoover Theatre in San Jose and featured California Senator Abel Maldonado, R-Santa Maria, who in February 2009 cast the deciding vote in the longest budget stalemate in California history.


The first second photo shows Senator Maldonado with San Jose high school students who participated in the conversation.

The senator was in conversation with ALF Senior Fellows (second photo, left to right) Jim Cunneen, Partner, California Strategies & former California State Assemblyman;Teresa Alvarado, Executive Director, Hispanic Foundation of Silicon Valley; Steve Wright, former editorial page editor for the San Jose Mercury News; and Rick Callender, Immediate Past President of the San Jose / Silicon Valley NAACP. California Senator Abel Maldonado is on the far right.