Located in south-central Kansas, Wichita is a mid-sized city with an active business community. When StoryCorps first proposed making Wichita an Anchor Community for One Small Step, we were fortunate to connect with Damon Young, Chief Business Officer at the Kansas Leadership Center and the 2022 Wichita Chamber of Commerce Board Chair.
Young first met StoryCorps Founder and President Dave Isay at a Rotary Club meeting. He immediately saw the potential for One Small Step to help bridge divisions in the local community and the potential role businesses could play to help elevate this work.
Young invited Isay to speak at the Chamber luncheon to share more about StoryCorps, the power of listening to one another’s stories, and to discuss One Small Step and why it’s important for the business community to be involved in this effort.
At the March Chamber luncheon, Young remarked, “Toxic polarization and isolation grow when they’re ignored, and they feed off of each other.” He sees clearly the role of debate in today’s society to help overcome toxic polarization. “Reasonable voices running away from debate only elevate unreasonable ones.” Young believes that leaning into each other’s stories can help us find common ground.
Grounded in contact theory, which suggests that strangers from different social and cultural groups can come to like and accept one another when they have repeated opportunities to interact, One Small Step helps bring people together for one-on-one conversations.
According to Lisa Gale, StoryCorps’ Chief Program Officer, “Wichita’s enthusiasm to participate in One Small Step was off the charts.” She said, “there is real pride that their city was chosen to do this work and they’re embracing it, thinking of ideas on how to spread the word and get more people involved.”
The efforts in Wichita are providing StoryCorps with on-the-ground insight about how best to bring One Small Step to other communities. “The ground game is incredibly important to our success,” Gale said. “Our community outreach efforts are not ‘cookie cutter.’ Each community is different. Wichita is an incredibly dynamic small city, oriented in a particular way to do this work. We have champions like Damon in this effort, and we can leverage the lessons from our outreach in Wichita to expand One Small Step efforts in other cities.”
In addition to Wichita, Oklahoma City, OK; Richmond, VA; and Fresno/Central Valley, CA are Anchor Communities for One Small Step in 2022. For each city, StoryCorps engages a local public relations firm to secure media coverage and connect us with the community, creates a Community Advisory Group, implements localized advertising and promotional campaigns, engages with partner organizations and individuals, and brings the community together with special events.
Stay tuned for more news from our One Small Step Anchor Communities.
Photos from Wichita Regional Chamber of Commerce by Milt Mounts / Essential Images Photography