We human beings are wired for stories. Whether as children at our grandmother’s knee or as youngsters watching a movie or as adults reading a magazine on sports or politics, we are constantly engaged with stories. Our thinking is influenced, moved, sculpted by stories… as much as our emotions and psyches respond and react to another’s experience of life… in the process shaping our own awareness and behaviour – individually and collectively. Neuroscience may explain our response to a story as our mirror neurons firing. Whatever the explanation may be, the fact is that we are deeply affected by stories.
Stories have a special quality… they can jump across logical, linear thinking and transcend several layers of comprehension. In doing so, they directly take us into the core of an experience. They generate empathy, disgust or even anger on another’s behalf… because somewhere, deep inside we identify and correlate with another’s experience, another’s story.
So, what does all this have to with us, with NGOs? It has everything to do with us…
Because most of our work is rooted in community… we work with people… and when we work with people, we are relating to and related with their lives, their situations, their contexts, their dilemmas… their triumphs, solutions, innovations. And because we depend on other people… for help and support, for funds, and even for our survival and continuity. And because often our role is that of an interface, a spokesperson, an advocate, a bridge between one reality and another.
Might it not be important for us then to communicate in the best possible way? Use the best technology has to offer? Get the right message across at the right time to the right people..?
And what better way than through the medium of stories..? And like Pam Allyn says, the Story has after all stood the test of time, fought of wars, stood tall in the face of adversity and adapted itself to the different means by which it is conveyed. And that is the power of story itself..?
Stories are remembered upto to 22 times more than facts alone.
Stanford Marketing Professor Jennifer Aaker says that when people think of advocating for their ideas, they think of convincing arguments based on data, facts, and figures. However, studies show that if you share a story, people are often more likely to be persuaded. And when data and story are used together, audiences are moved both intellectually and emotionally.
Story fields are fields of influence, painting a particular picture of how life is or should be says Tom Atlee of the Co-intelligence Institute. They are patterns of dynamic potential… and influence the lives of those connected to them. They are made up of many sub-stories – myths, news, soap operas, advertisements, lives, memories, etc. And transformation, whether personal, organisational or social, happens when the underlying story field changes. Trying to change socio-cultural forms and habits without changing the story fields might lead to only temporary symptomatic deviations. But once the story field is changed… a paradigm shift happens.