At Barkada Circle, we use storytelling as the catalyst for sparking conversations between the people of a community so they can inspire each other and work together to make change happen.
For the past few months, my team has been immersed in Chicago’s education community. From coaching early childhood educators in a nursery school so they can engage the parents of the children on a deeper human level to speaking to a group of development professionals for community colleges about the value of storytelling in their work. From training teachers to be leaders in their own communities to engaging the board members of a museum in outreach and promoting their mission.
Barkada Circle’s goal for 2015 is to highlight the value of storytelling as a transformative agent for education: why storytelling is the foundation for how children learn and how adults find common ground around the issues of education, why each one of us must engage in making sure everyone has access to education regardless of their socio-economic status in the community.
Recently we gathered parents, youth, educators and nonprofit leaders around a table in Evanston, Illinois to share their experiences and perspectives on education. Participating in this conversation provided them opportunities for:
Meeting other equally invested neighbors who share similar visions for Evanston
Deepening their understanding of the community’s needs, programs, challenges and successes
Planting the seeds for future interactions, collaborations and resource sharing
This was our first step in supporting people’s efforts to make the necessary change for education in Evanston. As we facilitate more conversations, we continue the journey of addressing education as the cornerstone of our democracy and, presently, a tangled web of direction, intention and contention. Once we reach the place where we find our common truth and identity, only then can we change our story that weaves together reconciliation, courage and hopefulness.
Listen to these three storytellers talk about having the courage to break down barriers to reconcile their passion for education with the needs of underserved students so that they can hope to succeed in life.
I was driving down Clark Street yesterday afternoon from Chicago’s Rogers Park neighborhood to get to Andersonville. While waiting for the light to change at the intersection of Clark and Granville, I turned my head to gaze at the office of Centro Romero, a nonprofit agency that serves the immigrant and refugee community. My eyes were transfixed on something I had never seen before. I saw hand-painted on their office window the words: No Budget. No Service. No Justice.
“Did they close their doors for good?” was my first thought. I couldn’t tell for sure because it was Sunday and no one was around. Then the light changed. Driving off, the question “Was this the aftermath of the state budget cuts?” popped immediately into my head.
Two months ago, I had lunch with Daysi Funes, Centro Romero’s Executive Director. Back then, she expressed a deep concern for what could potentially become the fate of nonprofits after Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner announces the state budget in July. Now that we’ve turned that corner, I’m seeing signs that point toward difficult times ahead. Just the other day, a friend told me that he was laid off from a community organization also serving immigrants and their families.
Nonprofits like Centro Romero work to keep immigrant families together, help people from this community find jobs and provide them access to healthcare. The state budget is a reflection of how little value elected officials put on the lives of people who have the weakest ability to find resources for building a sustainable home. It’s seems so easy for someone in power to forget how this country was built in the first place. From where he stands, he sees today’s immigrant community as having no impact on the status quo that he’s trying to protect. But what he fails to see is the reality that immigrants shape the future of this country, whether or not he accepts it. This is how it has always been throughout our history, and how it always will be.
Listen to three success stories that shed light on the immigrant community. More than that, they are stories of courage, perseverance and compassion. What may seem to be foreign at first is, in reality, ideally American.
In yesterday’s post, I talked about a blog entry by Seth Godin — renowned author, public speaker and entrepreneur — how he values imagination and what it can do for organizations moving forward in this age of uncertainty. Recently Seth also had a conversation with Krista Tippett which was recorded on American Public Media for Krista’s program called On Being. In their dialog, Seth pointed out that “rather than merely tolerating change, we are all called now to rise to it. We are invited and stretched in whatever we do to be artists — to create in ways that matter to other people.”
One of the questions that Krista asked Seth was, “Who is today’s artist?” According to Seth, today’s artist solves a problem in an interesting and innovative way — in a way that matters to a specific group of people. The age of trying to appeal to everyone (ultimately to no one) and doing mass marketing is over. Success is now driven by making real positive impact on what Seth calls a tribe — individuals with shared values and beliefs. If you can connect people in a tribe and amplify their values and beliefs so they can make more connections on their own, then you’re on your way to achieving real impact and success with your art.
So what does it take to connect people in a tribe? What do they readily share? What keeps them engaged? Stories encapsulate the tribe’s history and their mission, what led them on that specific path, their vision for change, and the relationships between the members and their emotional ties to what their community stands for. It all begins with something personal, something that awakens the human spirit — a tapestry that unfolds into a shared narrative.
One Chicago nonprofit, A Silver Lining Foundation, is dedicated to the fight against cancer by ensuring that underserved individuals affected by cancer have access to information and treatment options, regardless of their socio-economic situation. The organization was founded by Dr. Sandy Goldberg of NBC Chicago after she was diagnosed with breast cancer. For Dr. Sandy, hers is more than a tribe, it’s a family. Here is Dr. Sandy’s story, in her own words.
Think back to elementary school when your teacher showed your science class a diagram that explained how water took various forms in a never ending loop. The illustration below might seem familiar, but what’s wrong with it? I think this version of the water cycle is missing one critical player — You. Human impact on the environment has evolved enough to drastically change the story of water. But that’s a whole different subject. I want to focus instead on positive transformation.
Today’s blog post from Seth Godin talks about demand – should you harvest or create? According to Mr. Godin:
“You don’t need to persuade everyone that you have a great idea, you merely need to persuade one person. And then make it easy for that person to share.”
Key word: Share. How can your new evangelist do that? Only if you give them a story they can easily understand, be passionate about and spread. Only if they can easily make it their own. It’s still your story but in a different form that their audience (hopefully to become yours) can relate to. As your story continues to be retold, it reaches a different audience – like water taking the next step in the cycle.
The difference between your story cycle and that of water is that it stays essentially the same: two parts hydrogen and one part oxygen. On the other hand, your organization has the opportunity for real transformation with every turn in your cycle, becoming more relevant and more in sync with your growing community as their stories feed back to you and yours to them. There is one element that must be present throughout – trust. It’s what keeps the cycle going.