One Small Step Connect Participant Guide - StoryCorps

One Small Step Connect Participant Guide

About One Small Step

Created by StoryCorps, One Small Step is an effort to remind the country of the humanity in all of us, even those with whom we disagree. The initiative brings strangers with different political views together to record a 50-minute conversation — not to debate politics, but to learn who we are as people. Audio recordings of each interview are archived at the Library of Congress.

One Small Step Connect is our new platform designed to allow more people — more quickly — to come together from across the political divide and rediscover our shared humanity. We thank you for your willingness to take One Small Step with us! 

Step-by-Step Instructions

From start to finish, your One Small Step Connect conversation will take up to an hour and fifteen minutes, including 50 minutes of uninterrupted time to record a meaningful conversation. 

We aim to make your experience as comfortable as possible by guiding you through the following steps of the virtual video conversation process, and taking care of the technical aspects of the audio recording. 

Sign Up to Participate 

  1. Complete the One Small Step matching questionnaire, and opt in to OSS Connect at the end. If you’ve already completed the matching questionnaire and want to opt in to OSS Connect, please email [email protected] and let us know. 
  2. You will receive an OSS Connect opt-in confirmation while the system looks for other participants to match you with. 
  3. Next, you will either receive an email when matches are available to review OR when you’ve been selected by another participant. Use the link to review the Participation Agreement and select/confirm a conversation partner.
  4. Once your partner is confirmed, you will receive an email with a link to chat with your partner and coordinate a conversation time. IMPORTANT: Check the box to confirm when your conversation time is set.
  5. Once your time is confirmed, you will receive an email with instructions and the link to your conversation room to use only at the time scheduled for your conversation. 

Before the Conversation

  1. Register for a StoryCorps account in order to access One Small Step Connect. 
  2. Watch our welcome video with tips on how to have a quality conversation.
  3. Get familiar with the Conversation Roadmap in this Guide. 
  4. Review checklist of technology requirements:
  • A desktop or laptop computer (tablets and mofbile devices, while possible, may result in a more challenging technical experience)
  • A solid internet connection
  • An up-to-date internet browser (the latest version of Google Chrome works best for these recordings)
  • A camera and microphone (built-in or external)
  • Headphones (highly recommended) 

On the Day of the Conversation

Preparing to Meet

  1. Have the One Small Step questions you’d like to ask pulled up on your computer or written down. 
  2. Plan to be in a quiet space.
  3. Test your technology and internet connection. You can test out your microphone and camera by doing a TokBox Precall Test or by using your own recording/video conferencing software. Read our Recording Recommendations for StoryCorps Connect Interviews.
  4. At the agreed-upon time, use the link provided to enter the conversation room. 

Entering the Conversation Room

  1. Use the link we sent by email to proceed to the conversation room at your agreed-upon time. The email subject line will be “Your link to your conversation room”. You may be prompted for camera and microphone permissions. Allow your web browser to access your camera and microphone, and allow the connectivity test to finish before proceeding. Confirm you have your preferred microphone input selected. Select “Switch” to choose your microphone input.
  2. Review the Conversation Agreement and agree to proceed and enter the room. 
  3. Once in the room and your conversation partner is ready, begin the audio recording. 

During the Conversation

  1. Follow the prompts to guide your conversation, also outlined in our Conversation Roadmap below. 
  2. Once introductions are over, you or your partner can ask/answer the first question! 
  3. If your Wi-Fi connection drops during the recording, you can always re-enter the room using the original link you were sent.

Ending the Conversation

  1. After you’ve asked each other all of the questions you were hoping to ask, you will manually end the recording. 
  2. That’s it! Thank you for recording with us!

After the Conversation

  1. You’ll receive an email confirming the completion of your conversation. 
  2. Please fill out our user feedback survey. Your input is invaluable in helping us provide wider access to the One Small Step experience for many more.
  3. Finally, you’ll receive an email when the conversation recording is ready to access and share.

Things to Consider

  • These interviews are not for the purposes of debating or reconciling conflict around political issues. These conversations are not meant to be about specific politics, policies or candidates. It is okay to talk about these topics, but we do not want you to get stuck debating political issues. These conversations tend to go best when you focus on sharing your own personal experiences.  We encourage you to think about personal experiences that have shaped your view of the world and your place in it.
  • You do not have to change your mind, and neither does your interview partner. There are no winners or losers in these conversations.
  • There will not be a facilitator present in the recording space, but there will be in-platform instructions and prompts to guide your conversation. 
  • StoryCorps conversations are always intended to be respectful, where two people are coming together to listen and share, with an open mind.
  • We encourage you to ask challenging questions, dig into difficult topics, and answer the questions honestly. 
  • Conversations can be difficult and emotional — we thank you in advance for keeping all language respectful throughout the entire recording. 
  • There is no wrong or right way to do a StoryCorps interview. This is meant to be an informal, comfortable space. Just be yourself.

Conversation Roadmap

The goal of this experience is to help you and your conversation partner get personal.  Each of you can decide how much you want to share. 

Use this guide as a roadmap to your conversation. If your partner reveals something you’re curious about — even when this feels personal — ask them: “Can you tell me more?” If you don’t want to say more, say “I’d like to pass.” 

One Small Step Conversations start here, both participants ask and answer the following:

  1. Why did you want to do this interview today? 
  2. Read your partner’s bio out loud as written. What in the bio would you like to know more about? Ask your partner. 
  3. Who has been the most influential person in your life? What did they teach you?
  4. Could you briefly describe, in your own words, your personal political values? 

Going deeper, ask your partner a question you already have in mind, or at least one of the following:

  1. Is there something about my beliefs that you don’t agree with but still respect?
  2. Do you ever feel misunderstood by people with different beliefs than you (i.e., by people from the “other side of the aisle”)? How so?
  3. Do you ever feel troubled by people with the same beliefs as you (i.e., people from your own “side of the aisle”) and how they communicate those beliefs to others?

Closing questions, ask your partner at least one of the following:

  1. Is there anything you learned about me today that surprised you? 
  2. Was I who you expected me to be?

Tips for Navigating Your Conversation

Taking one small step by having a conversation with someone who you might disagree with can be challenging. If it starts to feel difficult, consider these tips: 

  • If you feel misunderstood, clarify what you mean. (“Let me put this another way…”)
  • If you feel misheard, ask the listener to repeat what they heard you say and affirm or correct their statement.
  • If you feel hurt or disrespected, say so. If possible, describe exactly what you heard or saw that evoked hurt feelings in you. (“When you said x, I felt y…” where “x” refers to specific language.)
  • If you feel angry, express the anger directly (“I felt angry when I heard you say x…”) rather than expressing it or acting it out indirectly (by trashing another person’s statement or asking a sarcastic or rhetorical question).
  •  If you feel confused, frame a question that seeks clarification or more information. You may prefer to paraphrase what you have heard. (“Are you saying that…?”)
  • If you feel uncomfortable with the process, state your discomfort and check in with the group to see how others are experiencing what is happening. (“I’m not comfortable with the tension I’m feeling in the room right now, and I’m wondering how others are feeling.”) If others share your concerns and you have an idea about what would help, offer that idea. (“How about taking a one-minute Time Out to reflect on what we are trying to do together?”)
  • If you feel the conversation is going off track, share your perception, and check in with others. (“I thought we were going to discuss X before moving to Y, but it seems that W bypassed X and are focusing on Y.) If at any point you do not wish to continue your conversation, you may exit the conversation room at any time, or select “Report” to pause your conversation and submit a report about your experience.

Excerpted from Fostering Dialogue Across Divides: The Nuts and Bolts Guide from Essential Partners. Maggie Herzig and Laura Chasin. © 2006 Essential Partners, All rights reserved. Published 2017.


One Small Step is made possible by the generous support of The Hearthland Foundation, the Arthur M. Blank Family Foundation, The Marcus Foundation, the Walmart Foundation, the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, the Fetzer Institute, Stand Together Trust, the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, the Robins Foundation, New Pluralists, and Schwab Charitable Fund made possible by the generosity of Present Progressive Fund.

The Heartland Foundation
Fetzer Institute
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Fetzer Stacked
corporation for public broadcasting
Fetzer Institute