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StoryCorps’ One Small Step to Record Conversations to Bridge the Political Divides

StoryCorps’ One Small Step, a national effort to bring our country together one conversation at a time, is currently focusing on Richmond, one of three One Small Step Anchor Communities, and will record conversations at the Library of Virginia Oct. 2–6, 2023.

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  • Yale University’s Social Perception and Communication Laboratory found that both liberal and conservatives felt more empathetic toward their interview partner after their OSS conversation. The most recent results suggest that participating in OSS may generalize levels of empathy for people on the other side of the partisan divide.
  • More In Common found OSS content and messaging can convince most people (over 60 percent) that it is possible to have meaningful conversations with someone who holds different political beliefs.
  • Benenson Strategy Group conducted surveys in another anchor community (Wichita, KS) and found that Wichitans who are aware of OSS are more hopeful that civil communication across the political divide is possible than those who are unaware. In addition, Wichitans who are aware of OSS report less division locally and nationally, compared to those who aren’t, and they are also significantly more likely to respect—and feel respected by—those with whom they disagree politically.

 

StoryCorps’ One Small Step, a national effort to bring our country together one conversation at a time, is currently focusing on Richmond, one of three One Small Step Anchor Communities, and will record conversations at the Library of Virginia Oct. 2–6, 2023. The program, which pairs strangers with opposing political views to get to know each other as people, is looking for individuals in the Richmond metro area who would like to participate.
 
Piloted by StoryCorps in 2017 and launched in 2021, One Small Step brings strangers together for a 50-minute conversation about their lives, not to debate politics. Each conversation is moderated by a trained facilitator and, with participant permission, interviews are archived at the Library of Congress. A very small number of interviews are edited into short audio and animated stories that showcase the impact of the program.
 
One Small Step is based on contact theory, which suggests that a meaningful interaction between people with opposing views can help turn “thems” into “us-es.” By talking about who we are as people, rather than our differences, One Small Step reminds us of our shared humanity. To date, 3,800 people in 40 states across the country have recorded a One Small Step interview.
 
Currently, Richmond is one of three Anchor Communities—along with Fresno, California, and Wichita, Kansas—chosen to lead this work and show the rest of the country what it means to have the courage to listen. Learn more about One Small Step Richmond at takeonesmallstep.org/richmond
 
The Library of Virginia and StoryCorps’ One Small Step share a common goal—to collect and share stories that can help us make sense of our world. Richmond-area individuals interested in applying to be matched for a conversation at the Library of Virginia may sign up at onesmallstep.storycorps.org/library-of-virginia
 
StoryCorps Founder and President Dave Isay remarked, “In the coming years, our hope is that One Small Step will convince each of us to listen to people with whom we disagree and to have the courage to see the humanity in others.”
 

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Richard Hayes is the co-founder of RVAHub. When he isn't rounding up neighborhood news, he's likely watching soccer or chasing down the latest and greatest board game.