One Small Step

Video of Cassandra Adams and David Wilson | One Small Step
conversations across political divides:
Take One Small step

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Americans say they’re exhausted by political polarization and looking for a way out.

In response to the current culture of contempt, StoryCorps One Small Step is an effort to help mend the fraying fabric of our nation—one conversation at a time.

As a follow up to StoryCorps founder Dave Isay’s visit to Western Michigan University in late March, Kalamazoo will be a recording site this fall for One Small Step interviews between local citizens holding opposing political perspectives matched through an easy-to-complete online application. Deadline to register: September 5.

StoryCorps is a national non-profit founded in 2003 with a mission to record, preserve, and share the stories of Americans from all backgrounds and beliefs that launched One Small Step in 2021 to bring strangers together for a 50-minute conversation about their lives, not 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 states that a meaningful interaction between people with opposing views can help turn “thems” into “us-es”. The conversations help remind Americans from across the political spectrum that we all have a patriotic duty to listen to people with whom we disagree and to have the courage to see the humanity in others. To date, 2,000 people in 40 states across the country have recorded a OSS interview.

Registration is open for citizens interested in being considered for 15 interviews OSS will record in Kalamazoo in late September. Registrants who are not matched in the local round of interviews will automatically be added to the OSS broader participant pool to potentially be matched for ongoing virtual recording opportunities.

We Talk, the University’s civil discourse initiative, partnered with the Fetzer Institute, and StoryCorps, to bring OSS to campus and the Kalamazoo community.

Video of Nancy and Eric | One Small Step

I signed up! Am I guaranteed a spot? 

OSS cannot guarantee everyone who registers will be matched for a recording of 15 local interviews. Registrants who are not matched in the local round of interviews will automatically be added to the OSS broader participant pool to potentially be matched for ongoing virtual recording opportunities.

How do I prepare for a One Small Step conversation? 

The most important thing to prepare for your conversation is to come with an open mind, curiosity, and a genuine desire to listen to and connect with someone new. Suggested questions will be provided, but you’re welcome to bring your own. Reflecting on what your goals for the experience are is a good way to prepare yourself and brainstorm some extra questions. Consider if there are any topics you’d prefer to keep off-limits. 

These conversations are meant to be unscripted. You are not expected to have all the answers, or to be a “spokesperson” for any particular point of view. Remember, this is not a debate but rather a chance to meet someone new and different. The most important tip for preparing for a One Small Step conversation is: Come ready to be your authentic self.  

Are OSS interviews saved or shared? 

OSS interviews are recorded but never saved without your permission. Your comfort level and consent in this process is our first priority. There is no obligation to share. If you chose to do so, your interview will be archived as part of United States history in the Library of Congress. You may also elect to share the conversation, but keep your name and identity anonymous. Whether you decide to share your conversation or not, you and your conversation partner will receive a digital copy of the recording. 

After you’ve finished your One Small Step conversation, the facilitator will discuss whether you’d like to allow StoryCorps to have a copy of the recording. You grant permission by signing a Release Form (we provide a copy in advance of your appointment to review). Signing a Release Form allows StoryCorps to archive the recording with the American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress in Washington, D.C., as well as to add your conversation to their Online Archive Collection. If you (or your conversation partner) decide not to sign the release form, the recording will not be archived or broadcast and StoryCorps will not keep a copy. Regardless of your decision, you and your conversation partner will both receive the audio of the conversation to share with family and friends.