This guest post was written by Hatch users Maribeth Romslo and Nina Sharma for our Hatch Stories series.
The idea for The Whole Truth Booth was born via text message a few days after the 2016 Election. We are best friends who met more than 15 years ago while launching our careers in New York City. We’ve been there for each other through all types of ups and downs in our lives – marriages, children, divorce, international travel, illness, road trips, and many many laughs. We even ran a marathon together.
When the election didn’t go how we had hoped, we leaned on each other. We wondered why the country seems so divided. Why everything feels like US vs THEM. And why we have such a hard time listening to each other.
On November 10th, we were late-night text lamenting about the election and we came up with the idea of a platform (both physical and virtual) where people living in America, from all walks of life could share their own, personal truth. Feel heard. Listen directly to others talk about their hopes, fears, dreams.
We did what any startup does: ran the idea past some friends and against all rational judgement (those pesky jobs and families), took the plunge. We never fancied ourselves tech entrepreneurs. We were just two women living in flyover states (Minnesota & Colorado) who wanted to help bridge political divides across America.
We started working with Hatch and quickly launched our app on 12/15/16 (the 225th anniversary of the ratification of the First Amendment). WTB users are prompted to answer questions that get at the heart of who we are as Americans. Questions like: What do you hope for your children? What do you most fear? What makes you proud to be an American? What has been the hardest day of your life? What does a stronger America look like to you?
“Turn your living room into your truth booth. Turn your car into your truth booth. Turn your morning commute into your truth booth. Wherever you are and (more importantly) whoever you are, we want to hear YOUR truth.”
Putting our action where our hair-brained ideas were, we went D.C. for the Inauguration and the Women’s March. Different crowds, different mass gatherings. Both wholly American days.
On Friday for Inauguration, our team set up at two different spots in the public viewing area of the Washington Mall (first by the carousel and then by the National Gallery Sculpture Garden) . We talked with Americans from all over this country, from all walks of life. On Saturday for the Women’s March, we set up by the bike rack in front of the Air & Space Museum and within about 5 minutes, started pulling folks in for interviews. And more interviews. And more interviews.
What did we learn? So many things. We learned that no matter who you voted for, you did not vote lightly. You cared, deeply, and now you want to get to work. If your guy won, you’re excited, you’re hopeful, you’re ready for change. If your gal didn’t win, you’re focused, you’re charged, you’re motivated to be that change. No matter who you are, you’re proud to be American. You love freedom – of speech, of religion, of choice – and you love opportunity. And you really love the chance to have your own, personal voice be recognized and heard.
Across the board, people loved the idea of sharing their truth, of answering questions that got to the core not just of who they voted for but of who they are as Americans and as humans, what guided them, and what they wanted for the future.
As we write this, we’ve only been on this journey for a mere 15 weeks. We are still learning and growing every day as a tech startup. The truths that people have shared keep us committed to the daunting work that is building a social platform.
In roughly 100 days, we built an app, we recorded hundreds of truths, got some awesome press attention, ran a succesful crowdfunding campaign (surpassing our goal!), and learned a ton. We are working to build community. We are building partnerships to grow the platform. We are working with Hatch to make improvements to our user experience.
We plan to eventually produce a documentary, building on stories we collect about what it means for Americans to learn to listen to each other and feel heard. We will weave together these seemingly disparate stories from people across the country, representing all walks of life and all belief systems, into engaging snapshots of the new American story.
We know this is just the beginning. Because we believe learning to listen is essential to bridging divides in our country and understanding each other.
Learn more about the Whole Truth Booth:
This is a guest post submitted by one of our users for our new Hatch Stories series. The Hatch team thanks Maribeth Romslo and Nina Sharma for agreeing to share their story with our Hatch community.