Welcome Stranger! All friends were strangers once. My name is David, and this is my not-for-profit movement to facilitate a change in culture - we are creating an accessible social space and providing tools for face-to-face communication in the 21st century. We are re-humanising the city.
You know that you are not just a part of ‘the masses’ – well, neither is anybody else. Those strangers making up the crowd are actually people just like you.
The idea behind I Talk to Strangers is simple; when you see someone wearing one of our bracelets or badges, you know that you can go over to that person and say ‘Hi’ and expect them to say ‘Hello, how are you?’. The same is true of anyone at our events, conversation hubs or associated spaces around London. I Talk to Strangers is a way of saying that you are open to meet new people; that you are not afraid of other people and that they do not need to be afraid of you.
So many people in London find it difficult to meet people, or feel isolated among the crowd. Often without a sense of community we compromise our well-being; depression and low self -esteem have both been linked with a feeling of isolation and being disconnected. We believe that within this globalised city-scape there are new spaces of community to suit the 21st century. On a ground-level, day-to-day basis, we move towards a London that is friendly, open, connected...human.
For more details see our website: www.italktostrangers.co.uk
What we do - 3 Cornerstones of ITalktoStrangers
Part 1 - Street Team Made up of friendly volunteers, we are out in the street in teams of 3 to 5 with our 'Free Hugs' and 'Hi, How are you?' signs, introducing some humanity to the streets squares, parks, and stations that weave through this city. We keep an eye out for people to help in any way we can, invite people for conversation, and generally try to encourage humanity in city streets.
It's incredibly fun for all involved, and most people who engage with us have a minute to chat. This is not about interrupting people, pulling them aside or being pushy - our teams are friendly and open. From the months we've already been doing this, it is clear that so many people here in London are ready and excited to talk, to hug, to feel a human connection; we just provide the space, the tools, whatever is needed to facilitate human connection. I personally train all volunteers so that they are prepared for a range of possible situations and are primed to make a positive difference to the lives of strangers.
So many people make a point of saying how we've made their day, inspired them, or how much they needed that hug, someone to listen, that contact. Here's a genuine sample from the messages I've received via our facebook page recently:
Simon 18/04/2014: "I just lost my wife after 25 years of happy marriage, and your team got me through yesterday. Thank you. Keep giving those hugs, you never know what difference it might make to someone."
Ollie 10/05/2014: “I met two strangers today, and it was just amazing to have friendly people come up to me and talk kindly. It’s wonderful when you have that kind of atmosphere around you, like wearing the badge.”
Jo 10/05/2014 "It's just incredible what wearing that badge, it completely changed the atmosphere of the tube. It’s really amazing"
Veronica 12/05/2014 "You know I’ve been in London since one and a half years – it has been the loneliest time of my life. I just came here, got a free coffee because my card didn’t work and now I run into this philosophy. I feel, maybe it’s the start of something. "
Devyn Marina 14/05/2014 "I didn’t find I Talk to Strangers, it found me -like the most meaningful things in life always do. I quickly realised that there is nothing to be afraid of; when everyone including yourself is smiling its hard not to feel like a part of something so powerful. I Talk to Strangers makes you realize how absolutely everyone in this world can connect. They say that loneliness is what plagues our society but I this demonstrates that if you open yourself up to the possibilities no one actually really is a stranger, just a friend you haven’t met yet. "
We make a difference. The more money we raise here, the bigger difference we can make.
Part 2 - Cafe's and Bars Cafe's are where we go to catch-up, to get-to-know, to discuss and share since the 'third wave' of coffee culture. We know that hidden among the starbucks and costa are independent cafe's, but hidden deeper among these are places where you are treated like a human being first, and a customer second. In these places, there is already somewhat of an atmosphere of 'you can talk to anybody', and we want to act as a connecting point for these spaces and encourage that aspect of their character to grow through promotion and association.
As co-ordinator of I Talk to Strangers I build a personal relationship with these places and establish whether their ethos is compatible with our own. They stock our badges and leaflets, as well as boasting signs, interventions and art projects that we formed uniquely in collaboration with each place to suit its character We've already got 8 cafe's and a bar on-board, incuding camden's famous inSpiral, my village cafe, Leyas and Vagabond N7 - see our website for details.
Part 3 - Events We organise, host and promote events that encourage communication, community and celebrate diversity. For the last month we have been holding diversity social events for people who are on the newsletter/facebook and wearing their badges - creating spaces where you know and feel that you can easily talk to anybody there with all manner of activities and entertainments from games, to head massages and henna. We're going to be holding storytelling nights in our community-bar, sharing those intense moments that make life interesting to celebrate the diversity of the human race. Plus, our regular food-sharing events are great to connect over the most basic of human cultures - good home-cooked food. Our 'conversation hubs' pop up around London as we tag along to other events of similar ethos, and craft a space in which people know they can communicate freely with anybody there. We've got diary slams in the works, and of course flash mobs to break up the contractual silence of the city-streets and transport systems!
Your funding put to work: How your donation makes a difference.
I've been funding this project out of my own savings, having quit my job to dedicate myself to it, and it has been an incredible first few months. With so many people volunteering to help in all corners of the business, new cafe's expressing interest all the time and a constant in-flow of positive support from the strangers we interact with daily, I know that this idea works.
Now, it's time to take this London-wide, to really challenge cultural norms. This is where you come in. If you believe in this idea, please do not step back and allow others to take action for you. Each donation is a measurable step towards a more connected and joyful London. Here's a break down of how the collected Kickstarter funds will be used.
I've tried to keep the costs down as much as possible. At the moment i'm working from home, living cheaply, and working 100-110 hour weeks solely on this project. Once we've taken on a few more cafe's, built a bigger stronger team of volunteers, got some more regular events underway, we will make enough return to continue production and operation.
Of course, there's a chance that this gets big, and I know that there are plenty of Strangers happy to talk our there, so if we should exceed our goal, here is a basic breakdown of how the funds will be spent.
The Founding Ideas
The name 'I talk to Strangers' is important, because, as much as this is about community and communication, it is also about introducing identity, personality, and humanity into spaces and interactions that are currently empty, impersonal and anonymous. There's an ironic tone because, of course, in declaring 'ITalktoStrangers', strangers stop being strangers and start being people.
This is a simple idea with a solid foundation. We've thought through every aspect of what we're proposing and are completely open with our information. Knowledge empowers you to make your own choices, so we feature articles on our website blog if you want to delve deeper into why we do what we do, and why it works. Briefs on some of the topics are below:
Urban Context: We spend so much time moving through the crowds of London, eyes down or avoiding eye-contact, and so we have lost sight of each other. We are not ‘the masses’, we are ourselves, individual and unique and this culture of feeling separated from the rest of the population is damaging to each of us. We are all human beings; we share emotions, desires, history, tensions, and potential, giving us so much to connect over and yet making us different enough to learn from each other. Everyone has a story worth telling, i'd love to hear yours. By sharing we can live more fulfilling, personal, interesting lives - there's a world to discover all around us, and you may surprise yourself with what a positive impact you can have on the day of a stranger.
Equality from Diversity, an Opportunity: London is the most diverse city on the planet. We have more diversity here than in whole countries of eras past. I Talk to Strangers is a tool to engage with that. With such variety of people at every turn, all our desire to see the world can be fed and partially satisfied by taking to the street as an adventure and just seeing what cultures, perspectives and ideas we might touch on our journey. There is no limit to how much we can learn. Through this diversity we can break down prejudices, racism, sexism and more, pushing forward social thought - we just have to talk to each other.
Liberated Communication and Sincerity: When we talk to a stranger, we can say anything we like. There, in the carriage or the street, they are not connected to our lives, so we can speak freely and without risk. Honesty, confessions, expressions... all can come easy as we move through the city. Surrounded by a safe anonymity, communication can be liberated. Just like my experience, and that of my street-team, any travelers out there and any to-stranger-talkers, once you open yourself up in this free space, you can connect sincerely and easily with another person. I can honestly say that every person I count as a friend I met through open and unnecessary communication with a complete stranger
Making a difference
Thank you for getting to this point, for reading, for sharing some time delving into this social movement. So, dear Stranger, I invite you, come join with me, with us, and let us rehumanise this city.
Risks and challenges
Obviously, some critics of this idea raise an issue commonly known as 'stranger danger'. With regards to this we give out each badge attached to a set of very clear rules, recommend it only to be used by over 18's and suggest a sensible attitude: keep badge wearing to public places, daylight hours and use your common-sense.
One of my main focuses right now is building a sense of what it is to be a member of I Talk To Strangers, to give it a community-spirit all its own and make it useful and thoroughly fun for all involved. This will be vital in the continuation of the project.
Being donation-based is of course a challenge. However, my initial tests in cafe's and in the street suggest a good return on each item and a good quantity given out without pressuring people. As such my projections imply it will be a sustainable not-for-profit business model when built on a good team.
Building and maintaining a cohesive brand image is a very important challenge to tackle carefully. There is such a strong vision behind this idea. I assess each business contact and opportunity that comes along in relation to this vision. No matter the circumstance, the central ethos of I Talk to Strangers will not be compromised. We aim for inclusivity, without ubiquity, sincerity over fulfilling expectation. Every facet of this project will carry with it the atmosphere that we want it to be known for, whether that is its street-team members, or the marketing advisors. or the cafe's and spaces we put our name to.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
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