What Stories Make Possible

The_War_and_Miss_Craske-_at_Home_in_London_and_at_work_at_Queen's_College,_Taunton,_1943_D12294 (2) (CROPPED)Oh the power of stories, the connecting glue of humanity!

Stories offer rich, vast and fertile fodder for sharing, learning and connecting together as humans. Stories inspire and catalyze those who are ready to try something different. Stories recognize and honor individuals who are a part of them,  people who may not see how awesome their story is. Stories serve as roadmaps with tangible details. Stories offer the “proof” or example someone is seeking.  Stories amplify and ripple out far beyond the first share.

“Every story is the beginning of a conversation, with ourselves as well as with others,” writes science journalist Elizabeth Svoboda in her AEON January 2015 magazine article, “Power of Story.”  Svoboda cites centuries of personal transformation that occurred when humans were exposed to stories, while illuminating the science behind what stories activate in the human brain. “Stories allow us to travel, time and again, outside the circumscribed spaces of what we believe and what we think possible. It is these journeys – sometimes tenuous, sometimes exhilarating – that inspire and steel us to navigate uncharted territories in real life.”

Unless something is physically impossible, it is possible. Stories create the space for possibility, the opportunity to hit pause and question, and the spark to open the door, whether that step is a crack or busts it off its hinges.

At Creating the Future, we have studied, researched, learned from and written about positive social change in the past.  And we have been immersed in catalyzing and creating change in the present.

We have shared stories of that change organically and informally among Creating the Future’s fellows. And those stories have been shared with the people those fellows encounter,  the same way stories have been shared and passed down for generations.

What will be possible when we scale the capture, analysis and learning from those stories?  What rocket fuel will those stories provide to the movement to create a healthy, humane world? That potential is at the heart of this initiative.

What will be possible when individuals around the world can access and share stories to …

  • normalize all that is positive, instead of the “common wisdom” always being about what’s going wrong?
  • amplify, learn from, and celebrate what is already in motion all over the world?
  • make the case to try something different?
  • evaluate, understand, catalyze and create positive shifts in your community?
  • show how consistently conditions improve when individuals are bringing out the best in each other and themselves
  • provide evidence that bringing out the best in each other creates success regardless of industry, sector, community size or geographic location?
  • validate what you feel and believe about what is possible?
  • provide a sense of community – that you are not alone in your thoughts and dreams?
  • understand the reason why current systems so often cause frustration?
  • help you shift from a culture of “can’t” to seeing what is possible because it is already happening?
  • provide evidence to people you encounter who ask, “What data / evidence do you have that you are actually making a difference?”

What will be possible when you can watch a video of someone just like you, sharing what happened when she changed the questions she asked in her organization? What will be possible when you are then offered the opportunity to connect directly with her?

This is just some of what we are hoping to accomplish through this initiative to learn and share what works.

What kinds of stories will fuel change and create success?

  • The stories we capture and share will:
    • Explore the extent to which there are universal truths / threads that repeat through the stories.
    • Explore the extent to which we all want to live in a humane world, and the extent to which we have what we need to create that world.
    • Marry data, numbers and metrics with actual outcomes that create change.
    • Link new knowledge to what individuals already know
    • Use language, format and context that is tailored to what is respected and expected by a variety of audiences
    • Provide ways of thinking that others can replicate on their own right now
    • Be stand-alone, shareable, and easily remembered, providing context, orientation and outcomes
    • Include testimonials from influencers in all sectors, industries and walks of life
    • Include and emphasize sectors and industries that are struggling the most, such as education and health care
    • Involve people in traditional positions of power and authority, influencing the influencers in their networks and like organizations
    • As often as possible, include names of real people and companies / organizations (vs pseudonyms), for both veracity and the ability for others to connect with and learn from them about what works

When stories like these are seen everywhere, in every channel and medium, we will begin to normalize the positive in the world, instead of the pain. Awesome outcomes and positive change will become the new normal.

What opportunities will our learning and sharing initiative make possible?

  • See and walk the paths individuals, organizations, businesses and communities are taking to create change. Understand where they started, what they did and how they did it, as practical and doable steps that anyone, anywhere can follow. Build on their success to create change in your own work and life.
  • Study a growing collection of facts and key factors that methodically create change, all with tangible and measurable outcomes and results. For some, this is labeled “evidence” or proof. For others, it validates what they believe and have personally experienced.
  • Access the know-how to assess current systems, regardless of what sector, industry, organization, company, community or geographic locations in which you live and work. Recognize the powerful role systems play in the actions we take and what we accomplish as a direct result. And see what is possible for changing those systems.
  • Get to know individuals who are committed to bringing out the best in everyone they encounter and themselves. See and acknowledge that we are all rock stars, entirely capable of creating the future we want.
  • Uncover connections that already exist, and build strong networks of ongoing learning and support.
  • Share your stories to offer learning opportunities to other individuals, to honor those who co-created change with you, and to deepen your practice in creating more change.
  • Catalyze the change you want to see and be, however that looks for you. Whether you choose to learn more, join a conversation, share your stories, or become a champion for something that matters to you, you have an open invitation to engage in this co-creating ongoing initiative with us.

What’s next?

Over the next few weeks, we will be sharing our stories initiative action and sleuthing plans.

As you read and reflect on what is posted, we ask you to share your wisdom, share what resonates with you, share what resources already exist, share what stories will make possible for you, your organization, your community and the world, and share your story.

Our story has started. Please join us in co-creating the next chapters.

Photo Credit: Public domain via Wikimedia Commons







One Response to What Stories Make Possible
  1. Andrea John-Smith
    January 18, 2016 | 10:33 pm

    You asked for comments right here, so here you go. First, this is needed. I think the question is what do we imagine? A bank of videos? Written stories with short abstracts? How can we make them easily indexable and searchable (and therefore usable). We could index by the name of the story sharer too so we can get to know the stories of particular individuals. Will we use an interview/questionnaire template to draw out the themes we are hoping to be more systematic in learning about (listed above)? So, as you can see, I have lots of practical questions.

    I think it might be a great thing to create a web resource much like an index of quotes, only an index of stories by theme. For example, could we collect stories/links about what people feel when they make major change and they do something that feels risky? Or what are the stories around leadership that aims at bringing out the best in people? You get the idea. One of the important roles I play is telling stories from my own journey, but being able to reference and share stories beyond my own personal encounters would be rich and helpful and immediately applicable in work we do with groups and individuals who would benefit from models and examples that encourage them.

    Those are some initial comments…I hope others will make comments as well!

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