OpenIDEO is an open innovation platform. Join our global community to solve big challenges for social good. Sign Up / Login or Learn more

Free Intelligent Conversation (FreeIC)

Bring people together to learn from each other by starting meaningful conversations in public places using signs.

Photo of Kyle Emile
29 13

Written by

Explain your project idea (2,000 characters)

As a society we’ve succeeded in growing our technological connectedness, while simultaneously failing to grow our understanding of each other. This has resulted in a shared anxiety towards engaging with people who are different than ourselves. For us to address this anxiety and gain the advantages of our differences, we must find a way to meaningfully engage and learn from one other. The problem is that there are no public places designated to facilitating meaningful conversations between strangers. If someone wanted to meet people of different backgrounds and meaningfully engage with them, where would they go? In a city there are few public places that actively facilitate fellowship. To mitigate this issue there must be ongoing opportunities for communities to convene and collaborate. Without these opportunities for meaningful interaction, people will remain callous towards those who are different. Free Intelligent Conversation is our solution to this problem. We organize events that facilitate meaningful conversations between strangers in public places. People sign up to lead these events in their city, then recruit volunteers to join their events. Our organization works with these leaders to equip and train volunteers (FreeIC Conversationalists) to connect with strangers through conversations. At these events volunteers go to public places and hold up signs reading "Free Intelligent Conversation," inviting people to talk about anything and everything. Our approach is an innovative and inexpensive solution to bridge communities. There are a lot of problems in the world and we believe that the first step towards a solution is to get people to talk to each other. Our vision, is for people around the world to have meaningful conversations with those in their communities. We believe that by making conversation with strangers more accessible we can positively transform both individuals and the communities, cities, and countries that they live in.

Who are the beneficiaries? (1,000 characters)

Our beneficiaries are people of all ages, demographics, and backgrounds that are looking to engage meaningfully with others. The range of people we have spoken to varies from individuals in grade school, to those enjoying the fruits of their retirement. Thus, FreeIC looks to benefit all members within a community. People benefit from Free Intelligent Conversation because we’re creating opportunities for socio-economic mixing, interpersonal growth, and generating positive contact between people of different social groups. You can find a collection of testimonials, stories, and general reactions from our beneficiaries here:

How is your idea unique? (1,000 characters)

When attempting to start meaningful conversations across groups of people other organizations make the mistakes of trying to bring a diverse of group people to a centralized space, instead of starting conversations where diverse groups already are. This makes the barrier of entry and exit high and makes it likely that they will attract a homogenous crowd. Our unique advantage is that we start conversations in public places where diverse groups already are by using our signs. Using a sign allows us to be decentralized and to start conversations in a variety of high-foot traffic places (parks, trains stations, malls, public monuments, etc) where there's likely to be diverse groups. The signs also allow us to invite people to converse without being disruptive and makes the barrier of entry and exit as low as possible. This makes us more successful because we're able to appeal to a broader group of people and can get them involved quickly by just getting them a sign.

Idea Proposal Stage (choose one)

  • Early Adoption: I have completed a pilot and analyzed the impact of that pilot on the intended users of the idea. I have begun to expand the pilot for early adoption.

Tell us more about your organization/company (1 sentence and website URL)

Our organization equips and trains volunteers to connect with strangers through meaningful conversations.

Expertise in sector

  • 5-7 years

Organization Filing Status

  • Yes, we are a registered non-profit.

In 3-4 sentences, tell us the inspiration or story that encouraged you to start this project.

I grew up in a diverse community where meaningful conversations between those from different backgrounds was the norm. However, when I entered adulthood I discovered that this was not the normal social environment for most communities. I wanted to find a way to meet people who were different then me and challenge myself to understand their worldviews. One day I had the idea for FreeIC; I then made my first sign and headed to the nearest metropolitan area, and I haven’t looked back since.

Please explain how your selected topic areas are influenced, in the local context of your project (1,000 characters).

In our current socio-political climate — given global tension over refugees, immigration, racism, hatred, and harassment —the harmony between groups has been destabilized and is negatively affecting the Peace and Prosperity of these individuals. Free Intelligent Conversation promotes Peace and Prosperity by creating opportunities for positive contact between people of different social groups. By creating public places of active fellowship, people are able to meet and have meaningful conversations. We believe that our differences should be distinctive, not divisive. And that the first step towards Peace and Prosperity is to get polarized groups to engage in conversation. Conversation is our greatest tool for collaborating in an open-ended way. Through successfully attempting to have conversations with people who have different views, we lay the foundation for goodwill and empathy amongst each other.

Who will work alongside your organization in the project idea? (1,000 characters)

Our project has been implemented in 26 US cities, and 4 international cities. In addition to these volunteer led events, we have also partnered with local businesses and college campuses. Through these partnerships we have helped institutions strengthen their relationship with their local communities. Two examples: (1) We partnered with IGS Energy for their community service day. We took their Chicago office out to the streets to hold up signs and start conversations with the community. This event helped them build new relationships and strengthen trust between themselves and the local community. (2) We partnered with Andrews University to host an indoor event focused on creating meaningful interchange between students, faculty, and staff of different backgrounds. Our program enticed curiosity, engendered new connections between students of different backgrounds, and ultimately helped create a new culture that inspired both meaningful dialogue, and interpersonal growth.

Please share some of the top strengths identified in the community which your project will serve (500 characters)

Our advantage is that FreeIC is a ethnically, professionally, and socio-economically diverse community, that is strongly tied together by a shared appreciation of meaningfully connecting with people different than themselves. This allows us to have access to countless resources. This also allows us to quickly mobilize and spread our project within various communities.

Geographic Focus

We’re targeting every city. First focusing on major US cities, then major international cities.

How many months are required for the project idea? (500 characters)

24 months

Did you submit this idea to our 2017 BridgeBuilder Challenge? (Y/N)

  • No


Join the conversation:

Photo of Carvell Edlander

People need to speak about their fears and stories without being judged. Really impressed with this idea of yours. To break out the barriers one needs to be healthy and fit.


View all comments