Building connections and creating a more compassionate world
Dave Isay is the founder and president of StoryCorps, and recent attendee of a Virgin Unite gathering. During his time with Virgin Unite, Dave shared how StoryCorps is helping remind people of their shared humanity, how it’s strengthening and building connections, teaching the value of listening, and reinforcing the fact that everyone’s story matters.
Dave founded StoryCorps in 2003 (with the first StoryBooth in New York’s Grand Central Terminal), so people could have a sacred space to honour a loved one by listening to their story. Since then, StoryCorps’ archive at the Library of Congress has evolved into the single largest collection of human voices ever recorded - an invaluable archive for future generations. According to Dave: “StoryCorps exists to remind people that every story matters and every voice counts.”
Since launch, StoryCorps has given more than 600,000 Americans the chance to record interviews about their lives, to pass wisdom from one generation to the next, and to leave a legacy for the future. As Dave added: “These powerful stories illustrate our shared humanity and show how much more we share in common than divides us.”
StoryCorps recently launched a new programme, One Small Step, which is focused on reminding people across the US of the humanity in everyone—especially those with whom they disagree. One Small Step works intensively in four ‘anchor communities’ in Wichita, Kansas; Oklahoma City, Oklahoma; Fresno/Central Valley, California; and Richmond, Virginia. It brings strangers with different political views together to record a 50-minute conversation – not about politics, but about who we are as people.
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’. Dave’s aim is for the programme to expand across the country: “In the coming years, our hope is that One Small Step can convince America that it is our patriotic duty to listen to those with whom we disagree,” he said.
We are living through a time of increasing polarisation and unrest. Virgin Unite believes that through courageous conversation we can take important steps towards reconciliation and understanding. StoryCorps is an incredible vessel for building connections between people and for creating a more just and compassionate world. If its stories have inspired you, please support the project and help spread the word.
And if these stories have left you wanting for more, we suggest you listen to the podcast of one of our dear friends, political commentator, and changemaker, Van Jones. In his weekly podcast, Uncommon Ground, Van and his guests explore topics that affect us all – from climate change to prison reform, from voting rights to political polarisation. You’ll hear inspiring, hopeful, and unique perspectives on what it takes to create meaningful change in a divided world.
Taking words from the great minds at StoryCorps, ‘Let’s come together to feel less torn apart’.