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Week 6 - Tell Your Story
Transcript of Week 6 - Tell Your Story
Having the facts on our side and defining our policy proposals are very important. However, as we have examined throughout this course, when facts challenge cherished, preexisting beliefs, many people will dismiss the facts.
The facts alone are simply not enough to change hearts and minds.
Instead we need to make the important facts meaningful to people in order to make them receptive to new information.
- Center for Story-Based Strategy
Storytelling is one of the most powerful techniques we have as humans to communicate and motivate. Can simply telling our stories to others about what has shaped our thinking about climate change have the same effect on them, too? What does the latest brain science say about the power of the personal narrative?
Big Think. (2011) How Storytelling Can Save Your Life. (3:13)
Who the heck is this guy?
Peter Gruber - executive, entrepreneur and Chairman and CEO of Mandalay Entertainment. Guber's. Guber's films have earned over $3 billion worldwide and 50 Academy Award nominations. His book
Tell to Win – Connect, Persuade, and Triumph with the Hidden Power of Story
became a #1 New York Times bestseller.
Perhaps the best way to influence hearts and minds is by understanding the power of story. After all, humans are unique in the animal kingdom for our relationship with narrative. We are storytelling animals, constructing our social reality through our ability to create, interpret and contest stories about the world around us.
- A personal account which offers details, analysis and a personal opinion from a particular happening or event, experienced by the writer. In other words - your story!
- Center for Story-Based Strategy
The rest of the presentation will focus on storytelling in the context of actual public speaking (to all different sorts of audiences). However, the substance of these ideas can extend to story-telling through other communications processes as well—through email blasts, blog posts, online social media, even through the campaign itself, making your campaign the vehicle for telling and creating a collective story. But for now, just keep that thought in the back of your mind and
Every issue already has a web of existing stories and cultural assumptions that frame public understanding - for instance, corporate influence is too big to counter; government regulations hurt the economy; its either jobs or the environment; or there is nothing we can do about climate change. . Understanding the current story around an issue and identifying opportunities to change the story with the right framing, the right messages, the right messengers, and creative interventions is the goal of strategic storytelling.
This week we will be thinking about our personal climate change story and creating our climate change narratives to share with each other.
Story-telling is one of our most powerful tools as organizers and movement builders. The content of some frames in this presentation come from a collaborative effort of Marshall Ganz*, the New Organizing Institute, and 350.org.
* Marshall Ganz is a senior lecturer in public policy at the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University. He worked on the staff of the United Farm Workers for sixteen years before becoming a trainer and organizer for political campaigns, unions and nonprofit groups. He is credited with devising the successful grassroots organizing model and training for Barack Obama’s 2008 presidential campaign.
Storytelling is a practice of leadership
Your story is the “why” of organizing—the art of translating values into action through stories. It is an iterative (repeative) discussion process through which individuals, communities, and nations construct their identity, make choices, and inspire action.
Each of us has a compelling story to tell
You may be a practiced story-teller or you may have been to talk about the personal to the public. But each of us has a story that can move others. As you learn this skill of story-telling, you will be able to tell a compelling story that includes elements that identify yourself, your audience and your strategy to others.
I have seen personal climate change stories (or narratives) effectively used to tee-up a presentation on climate change. This strategy can be used for face-to-face, from one-on-one to addressing large groups; in an article or editorial or web site; or in social media.
Why Tell Stories? Two Ways of Knowing or Interpreting
Leaders employ both the “head” and the “heart” in order to mobilize others to act effectively on behalf of shared values. In other words, they engage people in interpreting why they should change their world – their motivation – and how they can act to change it – their strategy.
Many leaders are often good at the analysis side of public speaking – and focus on presenting a good argument or strategy. Alternately, other leaders tell their personal story – but it is often a tale of heartbreak that educates us about the challenge but doesn’t highlight the choices and the potential for hopeful outcomes.
Our story-telling work here is an effort to tell a story that involves the head and heart AND moves people to use their hands and feet in action.
The key to this story-telling is understanding that values inspire action through emotion.
Emotions inform us of what we value in ourselves, in others, and in the world, and enable us to express the motivational content of our values to others. In other words, because we experience values emotionally, they are what actually move us to act; it is not just the idea that we ought to act. Because stories allow us to express our values not as abstract principles, but as lived experience, they have the power to move others too.
C-SPAN (20040 Barack Obama Speech at 2004 DNC Convention. (18:47)
The Power of the Personal Narrative
Some emotions inhibit action, but other emotions facilitate action.
by inertia, fear, self-doubt, isolation, and apathy.
*Pathos is an appeal to emotion, and is a way of convincing an audience of an argument by creating an emotional response.
** Logos is persuading by the use of logic
A “story of self” tells why we have been called to serve.
The story of self expresses the values or experiences that call each person to take leadership on climate change. The key focus is on choice points, moments in our lives when values are formed because of a need to choose in the face of great uncertainty.
When did you first care about being heard, learn that you were concerned about climate change, wanted to protect the planet, wanted to ensure clean air, clean water for yourself and others, learn to love nature or appreciate being outdoors, care for social justice or overcoming social strife linked with resource or climate issues? Why? When did you feel you had to do something about it? Why did you feel you could? What were the circumstances? What specific choice did you make?
by urgency, hope, YCMAD (you can make a difference), solidarity, and anger.
Progressives have been so busy winning the battle of the facts in our different issue silos that we’ve been losing the Battle of the Story—the broader fight to frame the big debates and assign relevance and meaning to current events and issues.
Whose stories will be heard? Which points of view will become accepted as common sense? Which will be marginalized and dismissed? There are many different ways to win the Battle of the Story whether it’s by re-framing the issue, amplifying previously unheard voices, or offering new solutions.
The most compelling narratives in climate change have this structure:
Government (perpetrators) justify carbon taxes (effect) in order to extend their control over out lives (motive)
Right-wing oil billionairs (perpetrators) fund climate change denial (effect) to increase their wealth (motive)
Both tell a story with elements that engage the listener on an emotional level... how can this compete with that?
"The balance of evidence leads many scientists to suggest that our emissions may be damaging to the climate."
"a compelling story, even if factually inaccurate, can be more emotionally compelling than a dry recitation of the truth"
- Frank Lutz, advising Republican
candidates on climate change
Who the heck is this guy?
Frank Lutz is a political consultant and "public opinion guru", best known for developing talking points and other messaging for various Republican causes including climate change.
- George Marshall
Are we losing the battle of the story?
This has helped me to understand why, after taking a course on climate change (based on IPCC findings) students (
students!) will still relate that they "aren't sure if climate change is real" because "the scientists don't agree on it." They have internalized the message created and disseminated by guys like Luntz - stories ineffectively countered by the rest of us.
- George Marshall and the Center for Story-Based Strategy
Well, actually elephants and rhinos don't eat people... but, hey, he's telling a story about stories!
Remember this? You don't have to view the video, but its an example of storytelling that, arguably, won a nomination and perhaps the even the presidency.
I heard Bill McKibben, the founder of 350.org, give a talk on climate change at Rutgers in 2013. He told his story of how he made the move from journalist to climate activist and how he started the 350.org movement. McKibben then challenged faculty at the lecture not to leave climate change to our students, but to take our place on the front lines of climate change protection. This was a turning point for me, and figures largely in my climate change narrative.
McKibben's talk illustrated the power of the story as he told his "story of self" and the story of the movement he started - "the story of us" - and then urged his audience to action with the "story of now."
In our final week of study together, I am asking each of you to create a personal climate change narrative - to tell the story of how you came to be interested in climate change or how you became a climate protection leader of activist. There aren't any rules or templates about what this should look like but think about:
Who will your audience be - who will you be telling your story to? Rank and file? Other union leaders? A group in your community? Friends across the table?
What do you think your audience's beliefs are about climate change? Using the lexicon of the "Six Americas", are they already concerned or are they disengaged or dismissive? Keep this in mind when tailoring your story to "meet them where they are."
Keep it simple and short - your story is likely just a teeing-up for giving your audience more information. Try to keep your "story of me" to one to three minutes.
Be honest and sincere and speak from the personal.
You can use any medium you choose - writing, PowerPoint, video, audio - to post on the Week 6 forum.
Try to upload your story by Sunday night (12/7) so that class members will have a chance to read/listen/view your story and comment.
A “story of self” tells why we have been called to serve.
The story of self expresses the values or experiences that call each person to take leadership on climate change. The key focus is on choice points, moments in our lives when values are formed because of a need to choose in the face of great uncertainty. When did you first care about being heard, learn that you were concerned about climate change, wanted to protect the planet, wanted to ensure clean air, clean water for yourself and others, learn to love nature or appreciate being outdoors, care for social justice or overcoming social strife linked with resource or climate issues? Why? When did you feel you had to do something about it? Why did you feel you could? What were the circumstances? What specific choice did you make?
“story of us” communicates the values and experiences that a community, organization, campaign or movement shares and what capacity or resources that community of “us” has to accomplish its goals.
Just as with a person, the key is choice points in the life of the community and/or those moments that express the values, experiences, past challenges and resources of the community or “us” that will take action. For example, tying a current effort to win a campaign to a past campus campaign victory and describing the effort it took to win, the people who worked hard to make it happen, their capabilities, their values, etc. is a story of us.
A “story of now” communicates the urgent challenge we are called upon to face now and calls us to action.
The story of now articulates the urgent challenge in specific detail. It also includes a description of the path we can take to achieve goals relative to the mission – the unique strategy or set of ideas that will help us to overcome the challenge we face and succeed. The story of now includes an ask that summons the audience to a specific action they can do to achieve our collective mission. Finally, the story lays out in detail a vision for the potential outcome we could achieve if our strategy succeeds.
If you would like to learn more about this communication strategy go to the 350.org Workshop page at: http://workshops.350.org/toolkit/story/
Next steps beyond the "story of self"
Stories mobilize emotions that urge us to take action and help us overcome emotions that inhibit us from action.
RU TV Network. (2013) Bill McKibben Do the Math at Rutgers. (86:00)
Bill McKibben tells his story, the story of the movement, and the story of the urgency to take action.
It is a long video, so I've put some markers at the "story parts" if you choose to view any part of it.
"Scary, hard number stuff" here
The beginning of McKibben's "story of me" starts here
He transitions into the "story of us"
And ends with the "story of now" -
tailored for the university audience
- ABC Copywriting
Sources are embedded in the presentation frames.
Changing Climates - Changing Perspectives: Labor and the Environment
LEARN - ULA Fall 2014
Labor Studies and Employment Relations
School of Labor and Employment Relations
Rutgers, The State University