“People feel misunderstood and judged and hurt,” said Isay, speaking to what’s reflected in trends around increasing polarization, decreasing social trust, and a feeling that our country is irrevocably divided. “What if we just give the entire country the chance to be listened to and have a chance to talk about, you know, who they are?”
That is the question behind StoryCorps’ One Small Step Initiative. The ongoing project – launched in 2018 – matches two strangers with different points of view to have a conversation not about politics, but about who they are. The project has already brought together hundreds of people in 40 cities across the country. And the initiative has attracted cross-ideological support, as StoryCorps works with funders including Steven Spielberg and Kate Capshaw’s Hearthland Foundation, the Fetzer Institute, the Hewlett Foundation, the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, and the Charles Koch Institute to expand the program.
Bestselling American novelist and former StoryCorps facilitator Jason Reynolds acknowledges this isn’t a silver bullet to polarization: “It isn’t an easy fix, it isn’t some kind of hocus pocus … or, you know, kumbaya, or it’s all fine. It isn’t any of that. [Isay] knows that. But somebody got to do something.”
Stand Together vice president of free speech & peace Sarah Ruger commented early on in the project: “We’ve long held a vision of a world where people collaborate to solve problems and respect each other as different. What actually helps people connect across differences and builds those bridges? It turns out stories are one of the most powerful ways.”
Check out this short animation to learn more about One Small Step:
And you can discover more about Stand Together’s work alongside StoryCorps and other partners to empower people to come together and solve the problems facing our country.