From walking through Barnes and Noble you can get a very quite understanding that storytelling is important. And I say that not because there are so many novels, but because there are so many books on storytelling itself. These books are also not written for novelists or, even more elementary, for writers. Storytelling is an idea that has been distilled for every use. It is and has been at the core of our culture since we had a culture. (That means we always had it). We see stories every time we see a commercial. Sometimes there stories aren’t even related to a product, but they connect to us on a deeper level. And the marketing firm that created that ad knows that if they can connect you to a story, have a positive or moving experience related to that story, then that emotion is going to be related to their product. Obviously sometimes this works really well, and sometimes we see right through it. Sometimes they just make us sit on the edge of our seat:
Good stories hold elements that evoke emotion, whether that be fear, suspense, inspiration, awe, happiness, or joy. In addition to the massively overproduced and sensationalized examples of storytelling (as above) I am interested in telling real stories, of real people and their struggles. I believe that this is a major reason that I have chosen social work and that I worked for a non-profit for 3 years working with the homeless and then another for 2 years working with college students in Germany. Working with a non-profit one of the important, but often overlooked aspects of your job is storytelling.
Michael Morgolis gives an entire section and talk on his blog GetStoried.com about the importance of developing your storytelling skills to advance your non-profit work. I really enjoy a few of the points that he makes in his talk. One aspect of storytelling that he particularly focuses on is Authenticity. Michael states, “Authenticity comes from experience. What do you have the natural authority to speak to?” Who better than the non-profit to be able to tell an authentic story. Working with clients in poverty or that are overcoming large obstacles, the social worker is in a key place to hear, earnestly and intentionally, the story of their clients. If the clients that we as social workers are able to listen to are willing to share their story with funders and potentially the larger community, the impact becomes even more real. People always relate to human experience. If we are practitioners are able to harness the already existing story that exists in each one of our clients, we can begin to make a larger impact in our communities, connecting to more than just our clients’ stories individually and as an organization.