The Power of Story

I am intrigued by the rise of storytelling and storytellers in organizational change initiatives.  For example, the City of Calgary hired Ken Cameron, a playwright, to be the “Citizen Raconteur” in support of the City’s Cultural Transformation Initiative. The City of Edmonton hired Todd Babiak and Shawn Ohler of Story Engine to support Make Something Edmonton, a story-telling initiative to rebrand the City. Stories are powerful, emotional tools for change.

Playwright Kenn Adams developed a wonderful tool called the Story Spine to create powerful stories. You simply fill in the blanks:

Once there was…… 
And every day…… 
Until one day….. 
And because of that….. 
And because of that….. 
And because of that…..
Until finally…..
And so……

I have used the Story Spine as a facilitation tool in a variety of settings from project kickoff sessions to preparations for a merger. For example, in a community development workshop, one group scripted this story:

Once there was a struggling community
And every day children and teens had nothing to do. There was vandalism. Families were going without adequate support. Neighbours were unconnected and isolated, hoping someone would do something to make things better.
Until one day they heard about a new way of building neighbourhoods and realized they had the power to make changes.
And because of that they formed a resident group and invited their Councillor and some City staff to work with them in revitalizing their neighbourhood.
And because of that they created an action plan to find local solutions to local issues.
And because of that neighbours reconnected, and children and youth became actively engaged in their neighbourhoods, schools, and the larger community.
Until finally the quality of life and a sense of belonging increased.
And so we have a healthy, vibrant, engaged neighbourhood and citizens for the future.

The story structure gives participants permission to talk about current state problems, what is required for change, and expected lasting benefits.  Assumptions about cause and effect surface, and powerful visions are created.

What’s your story?

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