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Wichita State's independent, student-run news source

The Sunflower

One Small Step presents interview audios, partnership with Elliott School of Communications

One+Small+Step+presents+interview+audios%2C+partnership+with+Elliott+School+of+Communications
Piper Pinnetti

Audio interviews could be heard in The Ulrich Museum as guests dined on hors d’oeuvres during the One Small Step: Listening Across the Divide event.

One Small Step is a nonprofit created by StoryCorps with the mission of bringing people together despite their differences. 

The audio recording was a compilation of participants’ interviews conducted by One Small Step. The interviews included background information about the various participants, their political views and other opinions, as well as snippets of people having a connection.  

Mary Bess Ser, the field manager and community engagement associate for One Small Step, spoke toward the end of the event. 

“We are not promoting debates, it’s more of just reconnecting with people who are different than you and have conversations about your lives,” Bess Ser said. 

Participants fill out a questionnaire prior to the interview. Based on their answers, they are paired with another person that has different beliefs and views. 

“We have a person at Yale who is doing the surveys, and they asked people to fill out a questionnaire beforehand, and then they follow up with them afterwards,” Bess Ser said. 

Because One Small Step is not making a profit on any of these interviews or social experiments, they have a different type of measurable impact. 

“They’re measuring, you know, their belief about the other person or their feelings about whether or not these conversations are even possible … and they are kind of measuring peoples’ hope and peoples’ belief that, you know, people can talk to each other across differences,” Bess Ser said. 

The interview is about 45 minutes, and the pair are forced to learn more about each other in a safe space. 

“This is kind of a safe way to have this conversation because you’re matched with a stranger, so you don’t know this person and so you do not have a relationship at stake,” Bess Ser said. “It’s moderated by a trained facilitator, so it’s never going to get ugly.” 

The goal of the interviews is to allow people to get to know each other and develop some type of relationship after the process is done. 

In the past, the group has been accused of having other intentions other than building connections. This includes pushing for arguments or purposefully matching people to create conflicts. 

“We don’t have any agenda other than bringing two people together,” Bess Ser said. “…We connect people, we provide the platform for them to share their stories, and that’s it.” 

Bess mentioned that it is not forced but “encouraged” that participants go out for coffee afterwards or to meet up again in the future.

This is what the organization hopes for these pairs: to try and keep the connection between them and to further their ability to have relationships with people different from them. 

“Ultimately, people just are surprised by the end of the conversation that they genuinely are interested in the other person, surprised by the assumptions that they had made about what their partner was going to think,” Bess Ser said. 

At the end of the discussion, Bess Ser revealed the future partnership between the Elliott School of Communications and One Small Step.

“We’re hoping to keep scaling it, and we’re bringing it to Wichita State,” Bess Ser said. “We’re gonna have students facilitating conversations.”

One Small Step is currently looking for more participants for the interviews. There is more information about the requirements of the procedure as well as how to volunteer on their website. 

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About the Contributor
Piper Pinnetti, Reporter
Piper Pinnetti is a reporter for The Sunflower. Pinnetti previously designed content for The Sunflower's Instagram. Pinnetti is a junior at Wichita State, majoring in journalism with the hopes of pursuing a career in writing. Pinnetti uses she/her pronouns.

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