Choose to Write a Bigger Story

Everywhere I go—from villages outside Kandy, Sri Lanka, to community centers in Amman, Jordan, to offices at the State Department in Washington, D.C.—I find people with a similar story. When thousands of people discover that their story is also someone else’s story, they have the chance to write a new story together. —Eboo Patel

On Wednesday, October 17, I will be watching a performance by my dear friend and neighbor Francesca Peppiatt at “Choosing to Be Here” a Storytelling Festival in a series of one-night-only performances about living in Chicago’s Rogers Park neighborhood—my neighborhood.

Each night a different combination of storytellers, accompanied by live music, will weave tales of community, neighborhood, fitting in, and how we connect—sometimes successfully, sometimes not.  Every night culminates in Julie Ganey’s acclaimed one-woman show “Love Thy Neighbor . . . Till it Hurts,” directed by Megan Shuchman.

A long-time Rogers Park resident, Ganey, asks: “What does it mean to be a good neighbor in a diverse community?” It’s a tenacious look at how we misunderstand, mistake and misjudge each other—and choose to live together anyway.

Sound familiar? I think these artists are on to something. It’s not just about the neighborhood. It even goes beyond community. In my view, the bigger picture is about empathywalk in my shoes as I walk in yours.

Let’s think of ourselves as a neighborhood of philanthropists, social innovators, and changemakers. It doesn’t matter how large or small, young or old our organizations are. Each of us is fighting for a worthy cause. We’re all trying to do work that truly matters. But why does it seem like too many nonprofits still go it alone? Why are there still only a few who, like a good neighbor, reach out to the agency a few blocks away and see what they both can accomplish together? Instead, why do we misunderstand, mistake and misjudge each other?

The household of a single mom with an infant and aging parent is most likely being served by three separate agencies. If they can weave their energies together to mirror the story of this household, only then will they start to realize greater desired outcomes. When organizations understand each other deeply and discover a similar story, only then will they be able to write a new story together that can profoundly change their community.

The Side Project Theater Company is hosting the festival which runs Sundays through Wednesdays until October 31st.  The Side Project is located at 1439 W. Jarvis (just east of Greenview) in Jarvis Square of Rogers Park.

For more storytelling:

The Power of Symbols
Symbols have been used to inspire change throughout history. They have embodied powerful ideas, stories, people and societies. This session uses the graphic arts to stir creative thinking about your organization’s identity and develop your own visual language that translates your story into compelling and memorable images.
Key take-away: Are the colors and pictures in your communications effectively delivering the intended message?
Teaching Artist: Lindsay Obermeyer
Thursday, October 18, 2012 – REGISTER

Write Your Story for Video
Let’s face it: The media landscape has been forever changed by the internet. Aside from social media, video is a major component in engaging your audience. Today, Youtube is the second largest search engine next to Google. When used effectively, video can not only help you rank in searches but can also compel viewers to ‘share’ your story across the web and give you and your organization the potential to reach hundreds to even millions of people interested in your cause or service. This workshop focuses on the best approach to creating content for your video campaign.
Key take-aways: (1) What aspect of your organization’s story can be best communicated through video, and (2) how do we streamline the message into a brief but memorable narrative.
Teaching Artist: Jessica Christopher
Tuesday, November 13, 2012 – REGISTER

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