Over the last 15 years, StoryCorps has welcomed people who know each other to visit one of our StoryBooths (or to use our app) to record a conversation that honors their relationship and shared history.
Through our newest initiative, One Small Step, we are doing something different. We are asking strangers with different political views to record a StoryCorps interview with each other. Why? To break down boundaries created by politics and remember our shared humanity.
Since we launched the project in 2018, one of the most common questions we are asked is how we match people for conversations. Roselyn Almonte, who manages the matching process, as well as our work with community partners for One Small Step, shared her insights into this process. Roselyn is a trained facilitator, having participated in almost 200 interviews since she joined StoryCorps in 2016.
How do you match people for a One Small Step interview?
We ask everyone who is interested in recording a One Small Step interview to complete an online questionnaire. This gives us information about who they are, why they want to participate, and what they hope to gain from this experience. Once people have completed our questionnaire, I take the time to review all responses.
What are you looking for when matching two people together for a conversation?
Whether you have completely opposite beliefs or just a few differences in political viewpoints, here are a couple of key things I consider:
- We are looking for two people who want to have a respectful conversation. It is important that people come into this conversation not wanting to debate, argue, yell, or tear someone else down. One of StoryCorps guiding principles is to do no harm to anyone participating in a conversation. We have created an interview structure that promotes respect and kindness, and we are looking for people who want that. It is important to StoryCorps to create a space free of harm to anyone involved.
- We are looking for two people who have similar goals for why they want to participate in these conversations. For example, both individuals should express wanting to “learn and expand” their own worldview or wanting to take the time to “listen to a set of beliefs very different” from their own.
- We are looking for people who prioritize listening. More than anything, One Small Step is a practice in listening. StoryCorps is committed to creating a culture of deep and intentional listening. One Small Step deepens that practice by teaching us ways to listen to different viewpoints and to respectfully hear things with which you may disagree. This is not an easy task! We are looking for people who are open-minded and willing to really listen to someone else.
What is one question that is particularly effective for getting people to open up and share?
This tip comes from Camila Kerwin, StoryCorps producer and former facilitator. Camila facilitated many One Small Step conversations in 2018, when we first tested the project. Her favorite question to ask is, “What is your earliest awareness of politics?” Camila says: “There’s something about talking about your memories as a kid that’s disarming, even if it’s a story that indicates you have different views from the other person.” It’s a productive place to start a conversation with someone who is new.
People in America are increasingly siloed in their contact with others. Another question we commonly hear: ‘ Where can I meet a stranger?’ How can people do that?
Take a moment to fill out a screening questionnaire, if we come to your city or surrounding area, you might be invited to participate. But if we are not coming to your area, we suggest starting where you are! Are there people in your workplace, school, or faith-community you want to have a conversation with? Explain the project to them and record a conversation on the StoryCorps App, using the keyword #OneSmallStep.
- Review our tips for recording and follow the suggested questions supplied by the App.
- Invite others to record. We’re building a listening movement; everyone is invited to take part in this national effort.
Learn more and see a complete list of locations where you can record.