There is the telling of a story and the hearing of a story. Researchers often focus on telling the story, whether it is an individual, organizational or cultural story. If narrative is a fundamental as Jerome Bruner and others say it is, then both parts… the telling and the hearing… are equally important. Story telling (narrative) that embraces the goal of social change requires both.
Narrative 4 is an initiative that:
harnesses the power of the story exchange to equip and embolden young adults to improve their lives, communities, and the world.
In workshops, young adults often with very different perspectives and life experiences are paired. Each tells their story and listens to the other’s story, and then each retells the other’s story… in the first person. This role reversal, taking the other’s perspective, is key to the transformative possibility of this approach, which is meant to capitalize on story telling to foster empathy and in school contexts also to:
- Develop active listening skills
- Engage in peer-to-peer learning
- Practice public speaking skills
- Improve self-reflection and self-awareness
- Experience an overall increase in positive emotions
Narrative 4 projects focus on the environment, identity, immigration, faith, and violence, and capitalize on polar opposite life experiences and values. They have organized story exchanges with Jewish and Arab teenagers; survivors of the 2010 Haitian earthquake and Hurricane Katrina; victims of gun violence and gun advocates; students from poor and elite schools; intergenerational experiences; students and police.
PhotoVoice is another methodology that has potential to explore narratives that foster awareness and change. Images that tell a story of lived experience are communicated in public presentations to inform and compel attention be paid to social change. Other participatory research approaches can and do incorporate story telling.
Many non-profits offer guidance for using story telling to support social change.
Living Proof: Telling Your Story to Make a Difference (book)