Know Idaho Better
Road tripping and couch surfing for stories to increase understanding and empathy in Idaho
For the last two years, I’ve been on a quest to find my professional holy grail —
Innovative ways to do well, doing good, in Idaho
By that, I mean making a living working on important issues in unique ways, and keeping a local focus. It’s harder than it sounds. I’ve tried a bunch of things, with greater or lesser success: Boise Analytics, Make Idaho Better, Cole Valley Speaks, and Patreon, to name a few.
My focus has been increasing understanding, empathy, and problem solving.
I’ve been primarily using data analytics as my approach, but more recently, I’ve learned the power of open, honest story telling and transparent communication.
And, I’ve lost some faith in leaders.
Particularly the elected ones. Idaho’s a conservative state, and many believe government is supposed to be limited and hands off. I’ve concluded that most don’t want to get ahead of things, they want to react when they have to, at the last minute. And in some cases, maybe not even then.
In other words, when it comes to new ideas, our elected leaders are the laggards — the last to adopt change. If you internalize that, the way to make change in Idaho isn’t to persuade them, it’s to change public opinion.
If you change public opinion, leaders *may* listen.
If you change it enough, it doesn’t matter if they listen or not — they won’t get re-elected if they don’t.
So, that’s what I’m going to work on. But how to do it? I think it’s with stories — from Idahoans’ own words, voices, faces.
I’ve been experimenting with approaches, and they’ve been powerful.
On a hyper-local scale, Cole Valley Speaks is a movement that was kicked off with a blog post, interviews, community organizing, and there’s a documentary in development. It’s gone viral and has radically shifted opinions about the subject, Cole Valley Christian School. These experiments have been eye-opening.
This could work for the whole state.
I think there’s a huge group of people that want to be heard. And there’s a huge group that are curious about how others see things. And if the medium for sharing ideas is vulnerable, honest conversation, I believe people might not only listen, but hear each other.
The impact could be significant.
It could effect the way we think about others. About people we thought of as different. We might realize how much we have in common. We might be more interested in helping each other. It sounds fluffy, but this is what happens when people hear and understand each other.
I can contribute to this.
My idea involves a road tripping, couch surfing campaign to visit multiple cities in every county in Idaho. Meet with elected officials, community leaders, and normal people. Learn what they do, think about, care about, hope for, and prioritize. Record those conversations and make them available to everyone. I think people would eat it up.
It’d be a website and a book.
Like Cole Valley Speaks, new content would post constantly, and it’d all build to a big finale. At the end, I’d show what I found to be the themes and patterns. The similarities and differences. And what I think the next steps are in understanding each other and solving our mutual problems.
What do you think?
Would you talk to me about what it’s like where you live and how you see things? Would you let me crash on your couch? Would you want to learn from people that are different than you?
Feedback is a gift.
If you want to help me with this idea, please comment on this post or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Thanks!