Here are some practices I use in working with stories in communities, organizations and meetings.
Feel free to add your own storytelling practices:
- In order to learn about the organization I am working with I'll ask for stories from people one on one using appreciative questions designed to draw forth the best of the organization or community. Often I'll ask people to tell me stories that reflect the spirit of the organization or describe moments of flow, compassion, and collective or individual excellence. You can find some of the questions I use at these two sites:
- To work with organizations experiencing grief, I will often hold a storytelling circle. Depending on the organization this usually takes the form of a talking circle whereby we use an object like a stone as a talking piece. This is placed in the middle of the circle, and people are invited to retreive it and speak, telling a story about themselves or the organization, or whatever is relevent to the situation at hand. Often, working in Aboriginal organizations and communities, I will work with local Elders who can hold space for grief in a deeper way while I hold space for the process.
- In scenario planning and future-oriented strategic planning, I will often ask people to create the stories of their futures. For scenario planning, this process can be very intensive and occur over a long period of time as we consider possible scenarios facing the group. In other formats, especially where we are working with appreciative processes this can be as simple as asking people to put themselves 10 years in the future and tell the story of how the got there.
- When facilitating meetings and depending on the context I invite people to record stories in their notes from the sessions. I will often refer to these stories at the opening and closing points of the gathering, in order to point to some of the key things that are holding the group's attention.
- When working with diverse stakeholder groups, I will invite the non-technical participants to share stories and ask the technical participants to reflect these stories back in terms they can understand. This real-time translation process helps people to come to a meeting from equal positinos of power (you have the technical expertise, but I have the story) and it encourages people to see the world through different eyes. It also ensures that technical people capture the spirit of the information in a way that makes sense for the non-technical participants. Storytelling in this context moves people into a space where they are jointly making meaning of the world rather than one group using it's own language and jargon to dominate the other.
- Of course by keeping a weblog, I engage in personal storytelling almost every day.