The idea behind the Big Talk Project spontaneously came to Jordan Myska Allen during meditation in the Spring of 2006. Excited, he started to discuss the possibilities and logistics with his friend and fellow big talk enthusiast Nick Hambley. From cafes and hot tubs to parties and pubs they eagerly discussed how to best encourage their peers to engage in meaningful conversations. Nick and Jordan knew they had many obstacles to overcome: general and widespread apathy, constraints on free time, prejudice against anything religiously affiliated, reluctance to push our boundaries, and a population polarized to believe they already have the answer or than none can be found. Yet every time they mentioned it to friends, family, and strangers, people got excited. Faces started glowing in anticipation. Something had to be done to address these issues.
The ball started rolling in the Fall of 2006 when they enrolled their first few writers through email. By the time Spring of 2007 came around, they were being supervised by Rice University’s Religious Studies Professor John Stroup, getting bids on website designers, and applying for funding. The Boniuk Center for the Study and Advancement of Religious Tolerance provided the start-up costs and additional coaching, and the idea continued to grow. What was originally just an email list grew into a full fledged website designed by Will Garris. Having proven his artistic and design skills when he created a website for Jordan’s band in 2006, Jordan and Nick were confident that Will would deliver their vision. As hoped, the site incorporates audio/video responses and an online interactive forum, and soon it will include versions in different languages and a collaboration with print media such as the Rice Standard. Jordan, Nick and the Boniuk Center are currently in the process of organizing a Big Talk writing scholarship, and working on spreading big talk to other campuses and organizations throughout the world. Get excited, get involved, and come back often to hear the big things everyone’s talking about!