031: Europe Talks—meet a fellow European for an unlikely conversation

Posted by Harry on Apr 03, 2024; updated on Apr 09, 2024

Hey there,
this is Harry and today I’m here to tell you about a wonderful initiative: It’s called Europe Talks and it’s a simple way to have a conversation with a fellow European from a different country. It works like this:

  • Go to this website and locate the sign-up survey (it starts with a yes/no question)
  • Answer a few of those yes/no questions, followed by open questions, e.g. sharing what makes you happy or what worries you
  • Leave your contact details and submit the form

A few days later you’ll be introduced to another participant who went through the same process, most likely living in a different European country, who answered all or some of the yes/no questions differently. If you both decide to meet each other, your email addresses will be exchanged by the software and you can coordinate a time for your conversation—e.g. as a videocall via Zoom, WhatsApp or Facetime. This conversation is entirely private, nobody is listening in.

A banner showing a photo of people in conversation, with the headline “Europe’s largest cross-border dialogue project” next to it
A banner from the Europe Talks website

The initiative goes back to 2018, but just started again, in the run-up to the upcoming European elections. I already signed up during the first days and just had my first conversation last Sunday: At 3pm my phone rang and on the other end was a pharmacist from Athens. We had disagreed on four of the yes/no questions, but when we talked through them, we quickly found common ground and eventually realized that we more or less agreed on all of them, only differing in nuances. I have never been to Greece and he has never been to Germany, so exchanging how we live our lives, how we see the European Union, and what else is important to us, was a really insightful experience. We only talked for an hour, but it was gentle, thoughtful and definitely the highlight of my weekend. After all, how often does it happen that you meet a complete stranger, willing to talk about some hard topics? I know it takes a bit of courage to sign up (and admittedly I was nervous as hell), but we were both respectful, listened to each other and shared a few good laughs as well.

A bit of background: Europe Talks is powered by a non-profit software project called My Country Talks—it makes events like these possible, handling the sign-up, the matching, the exchange of contact data, and also has a mechanism to give feedback afterwards. I’ve been involved as a product manager since its inception in 2017 at ZEIT ONLINE, working with the team ever since. Bitcrowd used to be responsible for software development, but this year we took over the technical maintenance with Village One, keeping those events running smoothly, the data secure and also building new features. To this day it amazes me how many conversations were initiated this way and how many people met because of our work—over all these years, all over the world, with the goal to exchange views, listen to each other and find common ground. It’s such a simple, powerful concept: Using technology to forge new connections and then getting out of the way.

Fun fact: Almost 60.000 people have participated in Europe Talks events since 2019 and the team was awarded the “Jean Monnet Prize for European integration” in the category “large scale impact”. There’s even a TED talk about it!

You can be part of Europe Talks as well: Sign-ups are still open for a few more weeks! May I encourage you to take the leap? If you do, tell us how it went! And if you need help with a software project or digital product like this: You know where to find us!

Talk soon,
Harry (+ the villagers)

Stronger together: Come along for the ride!

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