Utah Public Radio looking to bridge divides via conversation

Moab participants invited to apply

Utah Public Radio is participating in a national initiative seeking to create better understandings between people on opposite sides of political and social divides. Courtesy photo

Utah Public Radio is looking to bridge political divides in Moab, San Juan County and elsewhere in the state by facilitating respectful and insightful conversations between people who are on opposite sides of political, cultural, religious and other divides.

UPR Program Director Tom Williams recently visited Moab to encourage locals interested in the program, named One Small Step, to apply online to participate. For a direct link to the questionnaire, click here.

One Small Step is an initiative from StoryCorps, an organization dedicated to “capturing and amplifying voices of everyday people least heard in the media,” according to a press release from the organization and UPR.

The organization’s founder and president, Dave Isay, said he has high hopes for the impact of the One Small Step project. “Our dream, which is lofty, is to try and convince the country that it’s your patriotic duty to see the humanity in people we disagree with,” Isay said. “StoryCorps stokes trust, stiches us together, and brings out our best and highest selves.”

UPR was one of six National Public Radio affiliates selected to participate in the One Small Step project. Williams said he was quick to apply when he got the request for applications from StoryCorps.

“When I first got that, I responded within about ten minutes,” Williams said. “I just felt like this is something that we all need, and if UPR has the opportunity to participate, I want our hat in the ring, and we were lucky enough to be selected.”

According to Williams, he thinks the project will create “hope” for people that the deep social divides he sees across the nation can be bridged. He also hopes the project will give people an idea of how these divides can be minimized.

What to expect

Persons interested to participate in a conversation through One Small Step can expect conversations to last about 40 minutes. The conversations are recorded, and with the consent of each party following the conversation, the recording is archived in the Library of Congress.

“The point of these conversations is not to debate policy, change minds, or ‘talk politics,'” UPR said in a press release. “The project’s goal is for folks to share personal stories that shaped their beliefs in the hope that they will simply learn more about their differences – and their similarities.”

A facilitator will be present for the conversation, but according to Williams, they will participate only slightly, if at all. Facilitators will be present to suggest conversation-starting questions in case there is a lull and provide an official presence.

Participants who permit UPR to send a recording to the Library of Congress will also receive a copy for themselves.