Announcing OpenMind: An educational platform that helps you talk across the political divide (just in time for Thanksgiving)

One wrong conversational turn can ruin your whole Thanksgiving dinner. A recent study found that politically divided families ended their Thanksgiving dinners 20-30 minutes sooner last year, compared to non-divided families, for a total loss of 27 million hours of family time. Since the 2016 presidential election, political polarization has risen to a record-high, indicating that Thanksgiving meals in 2017 are likely to be an equally fraught endeavor.

What if there was a way to turn down the heat at your table? What if everyone present had a shared framework and vocabulary to discuss controversial and sensitive topics?

Heterodox Academy’s new OpenMind platform was designed to do just that.

OpenMind is a free, online platform designed to depolarize communities and foster mutual understanding across differences. Rooted in cutting-edge psychological research, OpenMind guides users through five steps to equip them with the skills to navigate the most difficult conversations. The heart of the platform is the OpenMind app, which is an easy and effective tool to use with your community because it is:

Highly engaging. The app is comprised of short interactive readings, activities, and scenarios that help users retain what they learn through immediate application and practice. The content is adaptive, changing for each user depending on the user’s answers. (For a summary of the content covered in the app, please see here.)

Data-driven. The app includes a pre- and post-assessment survey to measure the efficacy of the platform. The assessment measures the following constructs: Political “Manichaeism” (aversion to people with opposing beliefs), Social Distancing, Perspective Taking, Openness to Viewpoint Diversity, and Intellectual Humility.

Flexible. Users can complete each of the 10-25 minute steps of the app on their own, at their own pace. The app can be used by any individual who wants to improve his or her conversational skills. The app becomes most transformative when it is used by a whole group (for example, a classroom, corporate team, or congregation).

The “beta” version of OpenMind is already being used by 15 professors with more than 500 students, and the response so far has been extremely positive. While we are still in the process of validating our assessment tool, preliminary data from our beta users indicates that the app does have a measurable effect.

For the next few months, we are focusing on improving the climate on college campuses. We encourage professors to contact us to get a link so that they can use OpenMind in their classrooms.

We are also beginning to forge partnerships with universities to incorporate OpenMind into their first-year summer “pre-reads” and orientation programming.

We will soon be expanding off-campus to corporations, religious communities, and civic organizations. Our goal is to reach millions of citizens and to equip them with the skills needed to resolve conflicts, learn from disagreement, and build better communities.

Contact us at openmind@heterodoxacademy.org to learn how you can use the app in your university, community, company, or organization. For more information, please visit openmindplatform.org.