ZEIT ONLINE Initiative Brings Together Liberals and Conservatives

© Marcus Simaitis for ZEIT ONLINE

The initiative matches people of vastly different political persuasions and encourages them to get together to have a civil conversation.

Why do facts sometimes not change our opinions? This was the topic of conversation during an editorial board meeting of the German news site ZEIT ONLINE in early 2017.

Months later, as an outgrowth of that conversation, ZEIT ONLINE launched Deutschland Spricht (Germany Speaks), an initiative designed to get people with different political views together to have a conversation.

Here’s how it worked:

  1. Solicited participants answered a series of polarizing yes-or-no questions. Yes or no: Has Germany accepted too many refugees?
  2. The Deutschland Spricht algorithm matched participants with differing views in nearby locations.
  3. The team coordinated communication between participants.
  4. Participants arranged their meetings independently.

In its first run 12,000 people completed the survey, and 600 pairs of people met face-to-face. Three-quarters of participants reported positive feedback.

In 2018 the project expanded, adding 11 media partners across Germany. Now the initiative has transformed into an open-source platform, My Country Talks. Interested parties and organizations sign up to host a My Country Talks event following the system outlined above. So far events have taken place in five countries.