Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Storytelling in the Nonprofit Sector

A couple years ago I had figured out what I wanted to do in life. I saw myself working for a dynamic nonprofit providing education and health services to those in the developing world. And I would be the organizations professional storyteller, not to be confused with development officer or program manager. I would be able, as Blair Miller of Acumen Fund puts it to “travel back and forth from the slums of Kenya to the conference halls of Aspen.”

Trouble is, I’ve yet to see any postings for Chief of Storytelling or Storyteller Manager I or II. And so, for those of us that understand the value of a story, and want to dedicate our profesional lives telling the stories of the poor and often voiceless, what must we do?

While I don't know the answer to that just yet, what I beleive we all inherently get, even if we don't understand it, is quite simple: Storytelling REALLY matters. Stories, the power they have over us, isn't an exercise in logic at all. Anyone who has ever donated on impulse after a moving talk or video knows it's actually quite illogical  Empathy still means a great deal in deciding where we will give parts of our precious  time, energy, and money. Data matters too, but it ceases to mean anything unless we have a way to connect what we see on a spreadsheet to what we experience in real life. In the end, it's about telling stories, ours, that of another, and the often overlooked challenge Blair Miller addresses of getting out of the way of a good story so that it can be told by the actual person living it.

Listed below are a few links to what I think touch upon the essence of good storytelling.
-Blair Miller at Acumen Fund writes a brief blog entry about The Next Phase of Storytelling

-Andy Goodman's podcast Storytelling For Good Causes

-And of course a couple amazing talks posted on Ted: JK Rowling's Harvard commencement speech and spoken word artist Sarah Kay's talk on the power of self-expression.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

So you wish to be a seanchai. That's Gaelic for Storyteller. LY