What is it like to promote and facilitate One Small Step conversations in communities across the country? Each year, StoryCorps partners with a small cohort of public radio stations to help them create and lead their own One Small Step programs locally. In 2021, six stations spent the year matching residents across towns and neighborhoods, and then facilitating about 25 One Small Step conversations each. At the year’s end, they shared with us their biggest takeaways and discoveries.

Overwhelmingly, the people we spoke with said One Small Step has been a welcome addition to their station’s programming. “Our team was not only excited to hear what these conversations would sound like here in Oklahoma, but for the opportunity to help connect community members to each other and provide them a way to get outside of their echo chambers,” said Kateleigh Mills of KOSU in Oklahoma City, OK.

In Reno, NV, bi-lingual radio station KUNR Public Radio and Noticiero Móvil were encouraged to participate in One Small Step to continue their station’s experience with Spanish/English bilingual reporting and audio production. “One Small Step intrigued our team. Specifically, the idea of journalism centered on community conversations, with less of a prioritization of producing broadcast content, was interesting to us. This type of intentional engagement work aligns well with our philosophy of grounding bilingual reporting and engagement work in community participation,” said Natalie Van Hoozer of KUNR Public Radio and Noticiero Móvil.

“Vermont has a reputation as being a bastion of liberal politics, but the reality is so much more nuanced than that. VPR saw this project as an opportunity to explore some of the deep themes running through our state’s cultural identity — urban/rural divides, our working landscapes, and what it means to be ‘a Vermonter,’“ Kari Anderson of Vermont Public Radio said.

“While California is typically known as an overwhelmingly ‘blue’ state, the political makeup of our region is much more complicated,” said Sonia Mehrmand of KVPR — Valley Public Radio in California. “While the San Joaquin Valley’s rural and suburban areas are reliably white and Republican, the urban areas and some other smaller towns are increasingly ‘blue state’ areas, electing Democrats to office, with large Latinx populations as well as other diverse communities,” she said. “We felt that this political and demographic split within our region, which is less common in the rest of California, made our station and our region an ideal fit for StoryCorps One Small Step.”

Each station we spoke with shared moments of discovery and excitement about participating in One Small Step.

Facilitator Betty Smith with Vermont Public Radio said, “Given the isolation of both the pandemic and the current political atmosphere, I probably shouldn’t have been — but I was surprised to see the tangible proof of such a deep desire on the part of many for connection. And I re-learned the old lesson that it takes two … who are willing to try.”

“I, personally, was really moved by the littlest connections these strangers made — from wanting to invite each other to dinner to continue the conversation — to starting a new DnD [Dungeons and Dragons] group, people were looking to connect and grow understanding within themselves through the lives and perspectives of others that share their community,” Mills said.

Mills went on to share, “We recorded a conversation between a man who lived in a smaller town who had changed his party from Republican to Libertarian. We paired him with a liberal transgender woman in Oklahoma City — who lived in one of the few districts that leans more Democratic. In a post-conversation interview we had with the Libertarian man, he said he wasn’t sure he would have ever been in a place to talk to someone like his One Small Step partner that day and was hoping that there would be other outlets to continue these conversations respectfully and intentionally.”

“Some of my favorite memories of the program that I consider to be ‘break-through’ moments for participants come at the end of the conversations,” said Van Hoozer. “I had at least five different conversation pairs exchange contact information so they could continue their conversations after the One Small Step discussion was over. One pair recently let me know that they got their families together for dinner after meeting during One Small Step, and it was a positive experience.”

Anderson of Vermont Public Radio summarized the sentiment we heard from every radio station. “It has been so humbling to see people holding each other’s hearts so carefully, to be so thoughtful and open and candid in the course of these conversations,” she said.


StoryCorps thanks the Corporation for Public Broadcasting for its support of One Small Step’s radio station partnerships. One Small Step is also made possible by the generous support of The Hearthland Foundation, the Fetzer Institute, the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, and the Charles Koch Institute.