A key to bridging the political divide: Sit down and talk?


A few years ago, Dave Isay started worrying about America as he saw the middle ground between the political parties vanish into what he calls “disconnection and a vast void.”

“I am not ever concerned about people arguing with each other, because that’s healthy,” Isay said. “But I was concerned with people treating one another with contempt.”

Isay, the recipient of a MacArthur “genius” grant, the winner of six Peabody awards and the founder of the oral history project StoryCorps, hatched an idea: The surest way to start rebuilding common ground, he decided, was to gather people of differing views and backgrounds to sit down and simply talk to each other.

It wouldn’t solve everything. But he felt it was a start, and he named his initiative accordingly: One Small Step.

One Small Step, which Isay established in 2018, is among a growing number of nonprofit initiatives whose aim is to narrow America’s increasingly toxic political divide. Philanthropic groups, which by law must remain non-political, may be ideally suited to serve that goal. Foundations last year donated $57 million to such civic education and leadership programs, according to the research group Candid.

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