A dog called Guinness and some thoughts on stories and social good #beingthestory

beingthestory

I’ve spent today in London at #beingthestory – a days of stories brought together by Jude Habib from Sound Delivery. Thank you Jude.

Here are some thoughts on stories picked up today (this doesn;t cover the whole day – I’m still digesting other bits)

Telling someone’s story helps make them real.

Lawyers tell stories – judges and juries listen to them.  That’s one thing I learned from Sue James who works for the law centre in Hammersmith and Fulham. She tells other people’s stories for a legal living.  

When trying to stop someone losing their home she needs the judge to understand the story. She told us that telling someone’s story helps make them real.   

One client lost his wife, then his son died. “His life fell away”.  The one anchor in his life was his pet, a dog called Guinness.   Because he didn’t walk the dog and the dog crapped everywhere the landlord wanted him evicted.  To keep her client in his home Sue had to do two things: tell his story to make him real and get his dog walked.  

It got me thinking how helping people is only one thing that organisations should concentrate on – telling their story is just as important if we are to make their world real to the system. (It’s something we’ve helped with in the past – indeed it’s how the impact app helps – collects the stories for you to tell.)

Telling stories is the way to break a taboo

Mandy Thomas silenced the room with her story of domestic abuse. She had been advising the team from The Archers, including the actress Louiza Patikas, who plays Helen in the Radio 4 drama.

she cried when we met, she’s had to live and breathe this story line – I’m proud of the Archers team. This is no longer a taboo subject.

mandy-thomas-domestic-violence-bookMandy’s abuser was sentenced to 15 years but after he was released form prison her son died – he killed himself.  Her abuser ignored the conditions placed on his release and continued to pursue the family.  “He was“, she said,  “playing the system because they let him play.”  Stories can help remind the peiople in the system why they need to behave differently.

One last thought from Mandy: “a listening ear can save a life” . Her book You Can’t Run is here.

To make stories stick make them visceral.

Clare Patey is an artist who started The Empathy Museum (alongside Kitty Ross).  She quoted Barack Obama on the  “empathy deficit”

Clare says empathy is a skill – we can learn it.   If we do this we can combat hyper individualism – the “me, me, me” culture.  “The internet decreases our friendship circles and surrounds us with people who share our values”

In their work they have taken empathy very literally. A mile in your shoes gives people the opportunity to walk for twenty minutes – wearing someone elses shoes and listening to them talking through an mp3 player. It makes story telling and story listening physical – visceral.  It makes it have more impact.

That’s not quite all

I’ve more to digest/share on this, more and even wilder stories were told  – but I just wanted to start whist it was fresh.

2 comments

  1. Marcus Belben says:

    Thanks Nick. The power of stories in engaging an audience and developing empathy – very much what I’d like to support more of in my work.

Leave a Reply to Marcus Belben Cancel reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *