Storytelling for social impact

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Madeleine Dore

The talent to package a story creatively is a skill valued by organisations aiming to bring about social change.

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Book Of Life by David Kracov

Stories can transport us from the humdrum moments of everyday life. They can pull us into a world of imagination and fantasy, towards different ideals and open us to new opinions. In this way, they can adjust the filter in which we view the world around us. Collectively, within each sentence in every story, lies the power to create social change.  

Rose Press, Editor in Chief, Right Now and panellist in the Stories for Change event at FWD Online Campaigning Conference told ArtsHub, ‘Storytelling can be an effective way to reach people who might not otherwise hear your message.’

Campaigners have long harnessed the power of story to act as a vehicle to build awareness and ignite change. But has this become a stale, packaged up mode of delivery?

Tim Norton, Campaigns Manager and Co-founder of FWD Conference, told ArtsHub, ‘I think particularly within the charity sector, more so within international development, there is a history of going overseas to developing countries, grabbing a story – which is usually one of people in struggle – packaging it up and bringing it back to Australia, the US or the UK to present it to donors.’

The imperative of the recent FWD Conference held in Sydney was to erradicate this stagnant form of campaign storytelling and bring together people who are exploring interesting alternatives.

‘We wanted to look at people who were doing it a little differently, and using digital means to connect people and give communities a voice to actually tell their own story rather than through the medium of the charity,’ said Norton.

Stories for Change MC, visual artist and writer Matt Blackwood, said that ‘There are so many different ways to interpret a story and get people engaged – one size does not fit all stories!’

While the storytelling medium may differ – from film to photography, from literature to text messages – the motivation remains the same: to build empathy.

About the author

Madeleine Dore is a freelance writer and founder of Extraordinary Routines, an interview project exploring the intersection between creativity and imperfection. She is the previous Deputy Editor at ArtsHub. Follow her on Twitter at @RoutineCurator