The Power of Stories

“The story – from Rumpelstiltskin to War and Peace – is one of the basic tools invented by the human mind, for the purposes of gaining understanding. There have been great societies that did not use the wheel, but there have been no societies that did not tell stories.”

-          Ursula K. Le Guin

Thursday, July 21st was the second in a series of Fostering Change Grantee Learning Days for 2016. Approximately 50 grantee staff and young people gathered together to share the work that they have been doing on prototyping new practices, to learn from each other, and to move work forward. The primary method that we used for sharing our work with each other was a Collective Story Harvest.

A Collective Story Harvest is a methodology that enables us to deeply connect with and learn from the experience in our community, team or organization. This storytelling process builds our capacity for targeting listening and group learning while offering a gift to the story holders as well as the group as a whole in the form of collective meaning making. Group harvesting is an ideal way to surface the many insights, innovations and aha’s that exist beneath the surface of our stories and to take learning to a deeper level. To read more about Collective Story Harvest click here

We invited five members of our grantee community to share the work that they are doing, which may be either in process or just recently completed. Together we listened to these stories, and drew out lessons related to several themes including:

  • Pivotal moments and breakthroughs
  • Engaging young people
  • Resourcefulness
  • Learning Mindset
  • Taking risks
  • Intentional reflection
  • Big picture

The story that I listened to was told by Barbara Lawson of Lu’ma Native Housing Society. She runs the Aboriginal Youth Mentorship Program. Her story told us of the ways that she teaches culture to the young people she works with by not teaching culture in a pedagogic sense, but rather in the ways that culture has been traditionally passed from generation to generation in indigenous communities. For me, this reinforced the importance of story as a way to share knowledge and learn. Barb’s story also reinforced one of the most enduring themes of our Fostering Change work – relationships. Learning cannot happen in the absence of relationships, and gifted leaders such as Barb transfer so much learning through the webs of these relationships.