Why trust is key to digital storytelling

Each time I facilitate a storytelling workshop or photo-voice project, there is a moment when I’m overwhelmed by the trust someone extends to me and others in the workshop through the sharing of a moving personal story.

It is not just the content of the story, but also the gift of trust – given without hesitation or expectation – that hits you between the eyes and clenches your heart. I wait for and relish these moments.

A while ago, I facilitated a photo-voice project with four young women on behalf of Women’s Crisis Services of Waterloo Region, a social service agency that supports people dealing with abusive partners.
The aim of the project was to explore the signs of abusive relationships through pictures and personal reflections.

At the orientation session none of the participants indicated a they had experienced an abusive relationship. However, by the end of the one-day session all four had revealed they had been touched by abuse, either as the child of an abused parent or by an abusive partner.

The “moment of trust” came near the end of the day when one of the women slid the index card she was writing on across the table.

It read: “ … this symbolizes my journey from being a woman that was broken, with lots of emotional scars, feeling dirty and not worthy of love to becoming a woman who escaped domestic violence and is able to recognize the signs of abuse. Now I have the courage to say, do not touch me.”

In that moment I could feel the aching grip of tears on my throat like the grip of an abuser. I knew that I would never experience what this young woman had, but I would carry her story with me for the rest of my life.

Trust is one of the most important things to achieve when facilitating the storytelling process. It reveals itself each and every time without fail, but it always astonishes me with its power to move me.

Perhaps some would frame this as, “trust is something that is earned”, but I believe it is more complex . It requires faith in the process. As the facilitator I must believe the process has integrity and meaning before the members of the group can believe.

At the same time, storytellers need to be able to build trusting relationships with the other members of the story sharing circle. This enables them to tell their stories with authenticity and openness. The circle is a place where active story-listening is practiced; where stories are honoured; where stories feed other stories; where we see ourselves reflected in others’ lives. But more than anything else, when we engage in telling a personal story we must trust in the power of the story to move people.

Trust begets trust.

Please watch this photo-voice video “Signs of Abuse” and see how the “moment of trust” affects you.

To see how this work fits into the Women’s Crisis Services of Waterloo Region campaign developed by James Howe of communicate & Howe! read James’s case study.

Stop 4 – Made in Kitchener Walking Tour

It’s hard to believe that not too long ago 1000s of people lined King Street, from Waterloo to Kitchener to watch the Labour Day parade. This video from the Made in Kitchener Project tells the story of The Clown, The Horse and The Labour Day Parade. Take a look.

Made In Kitchener

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3 Resolutions, 2 Predictions and 1 Gift: 2010 gives way to 2011

I’ve been mulling over the writing of a New Year’s post since about 3 p.m. December 31 as I weighed the pros and cons staying awake to see in 2011. Rolling it round and round in my mind like a piece of hard Christmas toffee …

“Really, what self-absorbed dweeb would assume that anyone other than his mother (maybe) would care one iota about his predictions and resolutions.”

Well, dear reader this has never stopped me before – after all this is a blog – and now you will have something to hold me to for the remainder of the year. I welcome your scrutiny.

I’ll start with my resolutions:

  1. I will take more road trips in 2011. The freedom, adventure and sense of pioneering that come with hitting the open road compares with nothing in my daily life. I love it. There’s nothing like chasing the horizon down a flat prairie highway with a coffee in the cup holder and a good audio book on the sound system. There is plenty of time for reflection, hours of talk with your travel companion and innumerable vistas to be photographed.  A sleepover at the Frank Lloyd Wright designed Louis Penfield House in Cleveland Ohio tops my list for 2011.
  2. I will seek out and patronize more local, independent businesses. I admire anyone who has the guts to start and run a successful local business. We are easily enchanted by the success stories of the lucky few who start businesses on a shoestring and end up with making billions, but less so by the many local business owners who through their hard work and risk-taking help build a thriving local economy. The Waterloo Region edition of the Modern Urban Guide will be my starting point.
  3. I will end 2011 a fitter person than I started the year. There’s not much to say here expect TOO MUCH SCREEN TIME; so, I aim to get away from the screen and do some things that nourish the soul and burn some calories. I’m starting with the spin class Good Life Fitness at Market Square, so I’ll be ready to ride my bike when the good weather arrives. Wish me luck!

Now for the tricky stuff – predictions:

  1. By the end of 2011, I will have bought at least one e-book from a local independent book seller. This is as much a wish as it is a predication. I’m not advocating the end to books. Portable, easy to read and no batteries required, what more can you ask for. The problem is there are just too many of them! I own stacks and stacks of books and I have sold, given away and thrown out stacks and stacks of books. I don’t want to buy my books online; I want to preserve the experience of going to the book store. I would be perfectly happy to walk my Kobo to the store and plug in. Sure this sounds a bit wonky and “inefficient”, but I refer you to my third resolution re: screen time.
  2. By the end of 2011, we will have become as sick of the word “empathy” as we are of such irritants as “teachable moment” and “viral”. So beware and hope we don’t mess up yet another useful word.

2010 was a pivotal year for me, filled great challenge and change. I cannot let it slip away without acknowledging how the gift of friendship has sustained me throughout the year.

Thank you to my dear friends – old and new. I wish you and everyone the very best in 2011 and beyond.