Inspired by a lyric from this song, I wanted to make my experience a playful one. Hard conversations (i.e. politics at the dinner table) are avoided because we assume they must be unpleasant. Drawing on the idea of “putting yourself in someone else’s shoes”, New Shoes encourages people to talk about what makes them different in exchange for new shoes, which become a visual reminder of their experience.
“Act I”: Willing participants fill out a survey that asks them about their background and various beliefs, with an emphasis not only on what they believe but also why they believe it. There will be a mix of easy-to-answer multiple choice and questions that require some reflection and writing.
“Act II”: Participants will be paired with individuals with deeply different beliefs, but each will have at least one small personal or stylistic characteristic in common, such as a love of ice cream or sneakers.
“Act III”: Right before paired participants meet in person, they will be told that they are expected to talk about how they filled out their survey, though they will be given freedom with regards to how much they want to go over, in what order, and how. I believe this will make the experience feel more organic. As they are paired, participants are told: “There is a reason you were paired today. Try to figure out what it is.”
“Act IV”: After the conversation, the two partners must write down something they learned about the other person in order to ensure they did the activity as intended, and if they can show that they engaged in respectful conversation, each receives a pair of shoes.