How to develop a strong public narrative
The power of a personal story is in genuine personal feelings being shown, and also the shared story that is developed between the viewer and the account being given. The viewer must be able to identify with the person who is giving a statement; to see the connection between what the story teller is saying and the viewer’s own experience – the shared story. This workshop plan can be used to find the stories of ‘self, ‘us’ and ‘now’ and reveal the public narrative that runs through your work,
Although here we might focus on the ‘story of self’, the idea is to identify the sources of self that ground the purpose for which we will be calling upon others (‘story of us’) to join us in action (‘story of now’).
‘Story of self’
For this exercise we need to take the time to stop and think for a while. Take some paper, or a voice recorder. Try to find YOUR personal experiences and milestones. Be honest, try to remember satisfactions, but frustrations too. Family, friends, love, difficult background, anything works for this exercise, but don’t get too dispersed on your lines of thought. To structure all these thoughts it might useful ask yourself some questions:
‘Story of self’ = why I’m doing what I’m doing? – What has been my path and brought me here to this point? – Why did I feel it was a challenge? – Where did I find the courage (or didn’t)? – What’s the purpose in which I’m asking others to join me?
‘Story of us’
Before we describe the ‘us’, we define the boundaries: the ‘us’ goes from you-and-me to families, faiths, communities, organizations, nations and, in this case, movements. This means constituents aiming for a shared future. May be useful to ask yourself:
‘Story of us’= with whom do I share a common future? – Did I get involved with an organisation as a result of ‘fate’, ‘choice’ or both of them? – How like or unlike the experience of others do I believe my own experiences to be?
Once we have done this, it may be useful to identify ‘the us’ among our colleagues, so we can notice whom you will call upon to join us in action motivated by shared values (‘which I bring alive through history telling?’).
‘Story of now’
‘Now’ may mean urgency based on threat or on opportunity. It is rooted in the values we celebrated in the ‘story of self’ and ‘story of us’, but poses a challenge to those values and therefore, calls for ACTION. And not only this, but a ‘hopeful’ action with a clear outcome, a way that we can work together to achieve that outcome, AND AN ACTION WE CAN COMIT TO TAKE HERE AND NOW.
These questions may be useful for consideration:
‘Story of now’= what urgent challenge might I call upon us to face? – What vision might we share of what could be if we succeed? – What specific action might I call upon you to take?
If we just call for Climate Justice, for example, to deal with injustices, do you really think this will just happen? Especially, when there are other 1,000 things that keep governments engaged or busy. But if we are able to persuade them, for example, that a Climate Law is the powerful first step to accomplish our commitments with Kyoto, to repay our historical debt, to recover our image abroad, to reinvest money on intelligent energy for everyone … then it may be easier to promote another genuine solution among its citizens. And step by step, persuasion by persuasion, maybe they will not even understand the Climate Justice concept, but they will find it natural.
Once we have reflected on these questions, it’s time to link up together the three stories in order to achieve one single public narrative. And the best of this, is its flexibility, depending to who are you calling upon for an action, you will adapt it, readjust it and clean it. As in everything in life, the more you do it, the better your skill will be.
In the future we should be able to connect our ‘story of us’ with the ones of testimonies who basically report/denounce an unjust situation cause by international o national decisions. Now it’s time to collect personal stories…