Transcending Experience to Open the Future 

Touchstones designs custom programs for professionals that allow them to step outside the bounds of their daily responsibilities through lively and engaging discussions with peers from different fields. Programming blends historical and classical instances with contemporary issues. Through discussion, executives examine broader themes at play in their respective domains. Each program uses timeless sources focused on current issues that concern all leaders: globalization, technology, conceptual change and modification, and leadership. These semi-monthly or monthly programs include 10 to 20 ninety-minute meetings.

In recent years, Touchstones has offered groups that discuss more current texts with the goal of involving executives and professionals in examining and modifying their presuppositions through collaborative discussion. Participants practice active listening, mindful speaking, cooperation, collaboration, and shared leadership. The groups are led by Touchstones co-founder Howard Zeiderman, and have been held in Washington, D.C., New York City, and Annapolis, MD. Now, interested individuals have the opportunity to participate online.

Current Program Offerings

Exploring Gender through Women’s Writings

Issues of our self-identity, the historical and cultural distances between one another, and changing boundaries of self and other pervade every other step we might undertake.  And the great currents of social and cultural change of the last fifty years invite all of us to undertake a period of serious reflection on who we were, are now, and might become. Touchstones’ methodology of collaborative exploration is entirely focused on that type of engagement. 

This group will be offered as two series. The first will explore the crucial moments and crises that brought us to where we are through the writings of ten women.  The readings we will explore are the ones that raise the central issues of gender most directly.  These invite the interplay of the author’s reflections on our experience and encourage our own investigations. Our goal is to heighten the degree of our self-awareness, the shape of our current horizon. The first series will run from Oct. 2021-July 2022 and be co-led by Howard Zeiderman and Debra Valentine. You can see the facilitator bios and a list of readings here. To sign up, reach out to Howard Zeiderman. The second series will run from Oct. 2022-June 2023.


In the Poetry group, participants explore new models of thinking that are emerging at present and how those ideas are conveyed in the very structure of poems through language, sounds, and form. The poets selected encompass a wide range of style, subject matter and personal background. The world of modern poetry is perhaps more diverse in form and voice than ever and it is important to look to writers that represent that in their written as well as lived experience. Authors featured cover a spectrum of age, gender, race, ethnicity, and sexuality and these components of their identities emerge in their poetry in ways as varied as they are. This “living” element of the poetry allows the group to consider these poems in real time and naturally leads to questions about the role of poetry in our present world. It also raised the issue of how language and world shape one another.

Like the poets themselves, the participants in this group come from different backgrounds, but are united in their interest to read and consider the role of language as it impacts all of our lives. Though the role of language may be more pronounced in certain fields, such as education or law, but all people are sensitive to language, regardless of profession. It is the locus of our humanity. The Poetry Group serves as a way to delve into this sensitivity and explore language working at its most acute. See a list of readings for this group here, and sign up by emailing Olivia Braley. Our next Poetry group will run during Winter 2021-2022.

Past Program offerings Include

Where We Are & Why Literature

Over two years, with a total of 20 sessions, leaders will examine these transformations through recent literary works. Fiction, for the first time since the Renaissance, has become the most suggestive vehicle for fathoming the direction of our currently mutating world. In this series we will explore recent efforts to create new literary modes and approaches from around the world.

Evolving Revolutions

Explore three decisive revolutions leading to our present very fluid environment of change. These three moments are the American, the French, and the Russian-Chinese revolutions. They respectively focus on the issues of who has a voice (suffrage), who has a life (rights), who is genuinely self-conscious (autonomous). The last meeting of the series will focus on whether these models are still appropriate or whether we are in a new phase or epoch in which the distinction between the status quo and change is outmoded and how to describe this new environment.