World of Work (WOW) – Applied Storytelling

This month’s World of Work post is about applications of storytelling, inspired by a great book that I just finished reading: Putting Stories to Work by Shawn Callahan (Founder of Anecdote, the world’s largest business storytelling company), and my having attended the Mariposa Storytelling Festival where I experienced the powerful work of innovative professional storytellers David Novak, Bill Lepp, Donna Washington, and Kim Weitkamp.

I will begin this post with an exploration into the work of one practitioner of applied storytelling: Thayler Pekar.

Her approach to storytelling for social change as described in “Why Story Matters

If you are selling change (and you will probably be doing a lot of that on either the nonprofit or for-profit side, selling a change in situation or in a change in status), you want to enable your audience to see possibilities, solutions, and their part in them. You can help your listeners become the hero of the story.

Is quite resonant with the approach of the FrameWorks Institute, who focus on using stories to “widen the lens,” bringing systems and structures into view.  Bringing more heroes and heroines into a story by zooming out from a narrow focus in on decisions out to decision-making contexts.  For example, in thinking about biking to work from a public health standpoint, it’s not so much about one person’s decision to ride a bike to work on any given day, it’s “what are the systems in place (well-lit and maintained bike paths for example) and people and organizations that have worked to help make the right choice the easy one? To learn more about the Wide-Angle Lens approach to storytelling, check out  FrameWorks’ free online course, sponsored by the McArthur Foundation.

And her thinking about building a Narrative Organization as described on her website:

We believe that to most effectively lead, smart people must fully develop their narrative intelligence: an ability to see the world through a narrative lens, able to recognize, elicit, learn from, and share stories in support of organizational goals and identity, and in catalyzing change. And we believe organizations significantly benefit when they use story throughout their activities – becoming what we call narrative organizations.

jibes with the work that Anecdote does around the world, for whom change is “energised by” three things: an inspiring purpose (strategy story), the ability to engage, influence and inspire people (story skills), a process to regularly share stories on how to do it right (success stories).

Other organizations of Interest:

Applied Storytelling
Public Narrative
The Storytelling Nonprofit

Resources, Initiatives, and Associations

Stories Worth Telling – a joint initiative of Georgetown University’s Center for Social Impact Communication and the Meyer Foundation
The Stanford Storytelling Project
Stories of Change LinkedIn group

IDEO has an online course about storytelling starting on April 12th
For those of you in the Washington, DC area, get involved in the STORY event series produced by Ann Yoder
National Storytelling Network

I am actively trying to learn more about this world!  If you have experiences and stories about applied storytelling to share, I am all ears!  Find me on twitter @careerlinguist or fill out my Contact Form.

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