We are ready to share what we’ve learned with other public media outlets, churches, schools, social service groups and businesses that want to host their own “Ask A …” events.The project is our attempt to address deep polarization in American political discourse, which keeps getting worse each year.
But if we can’t talk through our different perspectives, we can’t come to a consensus.A line in the sand is drawn over every disagreement.The divisions transcend party affiliations of Democrats and Republicans.We have separated ourselves by socio-economic status, race and ethnicity, geography and the media we consume.KUOW’s community engagement staff has done eight of these, starting in February 2016 with three dialogues called “Ask A Muslim.” Last year, we hosted conversations with five other groups, including Trump supporters, transgender people and cops.
Working with a local design firm, The Hilt, we have assembled a list of best practices for a tool kit that’s available on the “Ask A …” website.Trying to have a civil conversation with family members or friends can sometimes feel like a lost cause.Comments on social media posts can degrade rapidly.When the event was over, we had to forcefully tell people that it was time to leave. We held a second “Ask A Muslim” in August 2016, using the same format in a different location, a South Seattle community center. The community engagement team decided to try and grow the “Ask A …” idea.We had learned a great deal about choreographing the events so the movement of participants from one conversation to the next went smoothly and audio recording at the event didn’t disrupt the conversations.We have few opportunities to exercise the skill of asking neutral questions, of listening without judging.