The importance of storytelling for social change

c-Flickr-member-muellermartin-385x250A new world requires new stories, but people will only listen to them when they themselves are included in the storyline. This requires a ‘gear-shift’ in conversations about radical action argues Simon Hodges

While working in the belly of corporate communications some years ago, I stumbled across a storytelling night at Amsterdam’s Mezrab cultural centre. Nude model drawing classes and the Mahabharata in Dutch were also on the menu, but it was the storytelling that caught my eye, hosted on an open stage by an Iranian storyteller by the name of Sahand Sahbedivani.

Even through the candlelight and the smoke, the rapt attention on the faces of the audience made it clear that they loved the stories of human drama they were hearing, which was the opposite of my experience in my work. Despite the fact that I was working extremely hard to get the company’s stories more attention, they rarely ignited anything like this response in the public’s imagination. The difference between a profit-making organisation and an alternative arts event was obvious but intriguing. Why did storytelling at Mezrab succeed while corporate communications generally fell flat? The answers are relevant to anyone who has a story to tell, and nowhere is that more important than in the field of social change.

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