FIND YOUR STORY
Why Tell Stories?
Humans are wired for storytelling. It is how we learn about and relate to the world around us. From movies, to campaign speeches, to restaurant recommendations from friends, we experience and share stories everyday that shape our thoughts and actions.
When we use those stories to inspire changes in the actions of our friends, families, and communities, that is called Public Narrative. Simply put, public narrative is using storytelling towards a shared goal.
People are ignited by their emotions, which is why we focus on storytelling. But passion alone is not enough. We need to direct that passion towards a common goal. This is why public narrative cannot be done in isolation. Unlike a personal story, we must engage with the collective story of the community we are in.
We develop public narrative through deep listening. That means being an active part of the community. Remember, sharing our stories is an act of leadership that inspires others to join us in making change! So, introduce yourself to your neighbors, attend local events, join a book club! Find ways to get to know the people around you so you can have a nuanced understanding of the shared values, experiences, and beliefs you have with the people around you.
“Well-told stories help turn– Marshall Ganz
moments of great crises into
moments of new beginnings.”
Public Narrative: A Story in 3 acts
We can imagine building a Public Narrative as telling a story in 3 acts. Those are the Story of Self (call to leadership), Story of Us (shared values and experiences), and the Story of Now (urgent issues + strategies).
Remember, Public Narrative is about the process, not strict rules! These are all guideline to help you get started. We develop our storytelling skills by sharing, listening, reflecting, and then sharing again. Make this story your own, and applicable to your community!
Feel free to play with the order of these for the most compelling version for your experiences and whoever you are talking to. What is important to remember is that all of these pieces are connected and feed into one another!
Story of SelF
We can think of the story of self as the reason you were called to speak about the issue at hand. In this part of the story, we are looking for the experiences and memories you have that make you feel passionately about the issue. Give clear images and details to paint the scene. Below are some reminders and guiding questions to keep in mind when writing your Story of Self:
Story of us
This is the point where you connect with the other person or audience. Why should they care about this issue? And why should they trust you? We want to build trust through grounding the story in the shared values, experiences, and beliefs you have with your audience. Below are some guiding questions and ideas to keep in mind when writing your Story of Us:
story of now
In the final part of the story, tell the other person what is happening right now that needs their attention. Three things to remember when discussing the current issues facing your community is to describe why the issue is urgent, why it is important, and to give them hope that they can help make a difference. Below are some guiding questions and ideas to keep in mind when writing your Story of Now:
Good Stories Have A Plot!
The key plot points to remember are the challenge you faced, the choice you made, and the outcome of your choice. Below are some guiding questions for each of these plot points.
- When was a time you realized the value of a good education?
- Do you remember a moment when you felt like fair access to education was being threatened?
- Do you have any memories of engaging with ideas and experiences from other communities that had an impact on you?
- Have you taken any classes, read books, or participated in events related to this issue?
- In that moment, did you say or do anything?
- Is there anything you wish you would have said or done?
- Why did you make that choice? How do you remember feeling at the time?
- How were your thoughts or actions different after that moment?
- What ways have you engaged with this issue since that moment?
Shared Experiences + Beliefs
Dig into those things you relate on to find common ground and build trust in your audience that you are someone they can relate to.
- Do you and the other person (or people in the audience) have any shared experiences?
- Do you work at the same job?
- Are you all religious?
- Do you love being in nature?
- Do you care a lot about a local school?
Values, Values, Values!
We want to highlight shared values as motivation for action. Describe how these values are impacted by the issue you care about. Paint a picture of how their values would be realized if they act or threatened if they do not take action.
Urgent, Important, and Achievable
In the final part of the story, tell the other person what is happening right now that needs their attention. Three things to remember when discussing the current issues facing your community is to describe why the issue is urgent, why it is important, and to give them hope that they can help make a difference.
Urgent + Important
- Link the sense of urgency to the shared values from the story of us.
- Describe how your shared values are under threat in the current moment.
- Describe how action taken now will help to ensure your ability to continue to practice your values.
The urgency + importance of an issue can often be upsetting.
We need to also leave the audience with hope that the world can change.
Paint a picture of a world where your goals are achieved.
Remind the audience that they can make a difference!
1. In what ways do you engage with your community? What new ways would you like to try engaging with your community?
2. Using the guiding questions from the Story of Self plot points, describe why it’s important that all students– regardless of how they look, live and love– feel included, supported and safe in school.
5. Tell us what current issues or opportunities around education are happening in your community? What can be done about those things? Why should we take action now?
Put it All together: The story of you!
You did it! Combine your practice responses from questions 2-5 to create your own public narrative. And when you are finished, share it with us! With all our voices together, we can make a difference!
Remember, this is a guideline, not a rule book. The best way to develop this skill is to practice! Every time you work your storytelling muscles by engaging your friends, family, and neighbors, your story will improve. As you continue to mold your story, the feedback and responses from your audience will help you grow as a speaker and add nuance to your understanding of the issue, making you a better advocate. Whether talking to a family member or speaking at your local parents’ group, remember that your stories have the ability to change minds and make a difference. So, use your voice!
Want to start the conversation with your community? Download the Empower app and invite 3 people you know who also want to discuss these important issues. Together with our communities, we can find new solutions, and make real changes.