The power of story

Having just got back from a hugely enjoyable day taking a group of young people to the Slavery museum to collect stories, in retrospect we experienced three direct reasons why story is so important in communication and understanding.

The first part of our day involved a talk on the consequences of knife crime and involved the passing round of some disturbing photographs of the victims of knives. The truly memorable and most hard hitting part of the talk was a story of how a young girl ended up dead and with such horrendous injuries. You could hear a pin drop as everyone present felt the pain and anguish of her parents as a series of unintended events unfolded.

After lunch we were priviledged to have an exclusive dramatisation of the Civil Rights protester Diane Nash. Played inspirationally by Vicky Evans-Hubbard in a performance called “Keep your eye on the prize”  she kept every single one of the 47 young people we had brought with us hanging onto her every word and a fantastic example of using drama to get across your message. A large proportion of the youngsters did believe she was the real Diane Nash especially after her convincing question and answer session afterwards.

Finally the third reason, which is why we were in Liverpool, was the chance to test-run the collection and self signification of stories by the young people themselves. As I went through the process myself and watched individuals complete the task it quickly became apparent just how powerful this approach will be once we iron out the rough spots. Many books on storytelling dwell on the idea that a story can often inform us more about the storyteller than the subject and this method so cleverly reveals your values and thinking processes as a kind of ‘metadata’ for subsequent pattern analysis and clustering using SenseMaker . I am feeling highly optimistic, and the young people who worked with us gave me tremendous optimism for the next generation too.

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