Two years ago, on a chilly, autumnal evening, I dashed out of my home to attend a meeting round the corner at a friend’s house. “Don’t worry, I’m just going to find out some more about it,” I reassured my husband. “I’m already really busy, I won’t take on too much, I promise!” I was heading to a meeting about setting up a refugee community sponsorship group in our area. Several hours later I sheepishly walked through the door of our home. “Erm, I agreed to be the co-chair” I announced, “it will all be fine – I promise!”Continue reading “Being the change: My refugee community sponsorship journey”
By Alice Sachrajda and Marzena Zukowska , co-authors of New Brave World, produced with the support of Unbound Philanthropy. With thanks to Shaun Campbell at Studio Scamps for the fantastic design of the New Brave World report and the stunning illustrations!
We all know the feeling: You’re part way through a riveting television series completely captivated by the characters as the story unfolds. Or, controller at the ready, you’re all set to immerse yourself in a fantasy gaming world, which you alone have the ability to direct. Or, popcorn in hand, you’re getting stuck into a recently released film that everyone has been talking about.
All of these experiences lead us into a captivating lull, an absorbing state of mind that we love to experience. There is tremendous power encapsulated in these moments. Instead of feeling like we’re being directly communicated to through a megaphone, we feel like we’re unwrapping a gift. We experience a heady curiosity that appeals to our imagination and intelligence. Clever creatives weave their storytelling magic in powerful, even addictive ways. They give you two plus two, not four, and we simply cannot get enough of it.
There is a collective power too. We become part of a community – or a fandom – who are all experiencing the same narrative. Together our minds open up to new scenarios and ideas. Aficionados of Game of Thrones (described as the biggest and most popular show in the world) will be familiar with Tyrion Lannister’s perceptive words in the series finale, which capture this sentiment exactly:
“What unites people? Armies? Gold? Flags? Stories. There’s nothing in the world more powerful than a good story. Nothing can stop it. No enemy can defeat it.”Tyrion Lannister, Game of Thrones
So, what does this mean to those of us who are striving for social justice? How can we tap into this tremendous source of collective narrative energy and use it to scale social change?Continue reading “Power of Pop: How popular culture drives power, opportunities and potential for social change”
How can civil society groups and charities apply narrative work in practice? Based on our work with migration groups in the UK during the pandemic, we believe a crucial step is more narrative synergy between organisations that share the same values.
There’s a page in my copy of Chip and Dan Heath’s book, ‘Switch, How to change things when change is hard’, which falls open without me having to try to find it. It’s like a well-thumbed favourite recipe in a much-loved cookery book. I have come back to that page over and over again. On it, the Heath brothers refer to researchers John Kotter and Dan Cohen who say that:
“Most people think change happens in this order: ANALYZE-THINK-CHANGE. You analyse, then you think, and then you change.”
They go on to describe how, in a relatively simplistic setting that might work pretty well. If you need to reduce costs or cut time off your daily commute, for example. But then they go on to say something so revelatory that I think everyone who wants to see change in our society should reflect deeply on this insight:
For those of us juggling caring responsibilities (working parents of toddlers, I salute you), these past few weeks have taken spinning plates to a whole new level. On the plus side, many of us have become even more adept at multitasking. Discussing strategic communications whilst hanging out the washing is my speciality…
This strange time, where family and work intertwine, has got me thinking about all the wonderful fables and stories we share with our children. The tales that stand the test of time are powerful because of the underlying messages that are woven into the fabric of the story. They are more than words on the page. They hold sway because of the way they make our children, and us for that matter, feel. More often than not, the lasting stories that are passed from generation to generation guide us as to how we can overcome adversity, and live well together.
And so, in the spirit of the work/family fusion that is the new normal, here’s a round up of children’s stories that get to the heart of this moment and help to guide us as to how we should be communicating the unfolding Covid-19 saga:
How do you feel right now? Upbeat, hopeful, motivated? I dearly hope so, but I’m willing to bet over the past few weeks you’ve experienced a flood of emotions that have made you feel anxious, upset, stretched and downright overwhelmed. Covid-19 is global and yet it’s local. It’s microscopic and yet having maximum macro-impact. We’re immobilised and yet frantically working. It’s confusing and unsettling to say the least.
But, and here’s the hopeful bit, it also presents an unprecedented opportunity to catalyse on this moment of connection, and we must not let it slip through our fingers. The way we respond strategically, now and in the coming months, will shape how others refer to the story of this time, and how we relate to one another in the future.
When I’m travelling on the London Underground, I often wonder at the magic of the tantalising stories all around me. Maybe I’m just irrepressibly curious, but I can’t help myself from thinking about the journeys of my fellow passengers. I imagine your life: where you’ve come from and where you’re going. I can see hints of your story in the expression on your face, in your choice of clothes, or in your reading material. I ponder your ups and your downs, your twists and turns. And I like to think about what we share – is it our sense of humour? Our favourite food? Being a sibling? A parent? A Londoner? A creative soul? A hopeful dreamer?
Several years ago, Alex Glennie (my former IPPR colleague and long-time friend and collaborator) and I began to nurture the kernel of a new idea. We both share a fascination for the transformative power of stories, and we began to explore how we could share stories in public places. This was borne out of the belief that sharing stories helps us to understand one another better, and to live well together. In these early stages, we thought about the journeys we make every day, which, knitted together, make up the bigger picture of our life.
And then we hit upon the idea of sharing stories in travel locations. We reflected on our daily journeys: the time when we are not at home and not yet at our destination. It’s a place where we cogitate and muse, and travel locations are democratic spaces, where anyone can go. We began to ask ourselves: could we reflect on someone else’s life journey while we go about our daily journey? Could transport hubs play a role in connecting people as well as places?
I’ve been a fan of graphic novels ever since I forayed into writing Be Here Now while at IPPR. Admittedly you could hardly call Be Here Now a novel, a collection of illustrated short stories is more accurate. But experimenting with storyboarding my research findings, and then working with an illustrator to bring them to life, sparked my interest in this medium. Illustration takes a story into an exhilarating and absorbing new dimension. Graphic novels can powerfully layer insight and meaning through the tones, shading and visual depiction of emotion.
Unless you’re living as a hermit in the Outer Hebrides then the chances are pop culture is shaping your thoughts, feelings and ideas about the world around you. Whether it’s television, film, sport, fashion or food, our shared mainstream culture plays a fundamental role in shaping our identity and guiding our attitudes and beliefs.