In an era of online finger-pointing and ideological filter bubbles, when was the last time you had a thoughtful face-to-face conversation with someone with whom you disagree?
Ahead of the European elections in late May, the Financial Times invites you to join in a cross-border experiment called Europe Talks, which brings together 16 European media outlets to encourage dialogue on a continental scale. We will be connecting thousands of Europeans to talk one-on-one about live political issues on the same day: May 11.
The project is coordinated by the prominent German news magazine Zeit Online. Its 2016 experiment, Germany Talks, was an overwhelming success, bringing together more than 1,200 people from across the country. Europe Talks takes this to an international level, setting up pairings across national borders in the hope of fostering greater mutual understanding.
Would you like to join? Here’s how:
First, you’ll answer seven politically controversial yes/no questions (in the tool below) that are being debated in many European countries. Zeit, which built the tool and is processing the data, will do its best to connect you with another European from a neighbouring country who responded differently from you. In mid-April, Zeit will introduce you to your debate partner via email and, if you both agree to it, you can make a plan to converse on May 11. Unless you share a different language, you should assume that these conversations will take place in English.
On the afternoon of May 11 you have a choice: you can take a train, plane, or drive to meet your debate partner in person at a public place of your choosing – perhaps for a walk, or a coffee. Alternatively, you can meet up over video chat. If all goes well, strangers from Belgium and France, Poland and Italy, Britain and Germany will come together for face-to-face discussions. We may reach out to ask if you are willing for a journalist to join you, so we can publish the story of your conversation in the FT. Europe Talks will also invite some participants to Brussels, where all the participating news organisations will come together for a festival at the project’s end.
Because we take your privacy seriously, here’s some information about how your submission will be used: the FT will only use it for the purposes of this project. Your responses, name and location – but not contact details – will be shared with the partners listed below. The only people who will have access to your contact details are the FT, and the Zeit technology team and their suppliers for maintenance and support. Your discussion partner will receive your email address only when you agree to share it with them.
Ready to start? Here’s your first question:
This project is less about convincing your discussion partner that you are right, and more about listening and communicating, and meeting someone with a different life experience. After your conversation, we will be in touch to ask you how it went and what you learned. If you are happy for us to do so, we will publish a selection of your responses in the FT.
Thank you for joining the project – and let’s get talking! If you have any questions, let us know in the comments below.