Storytelling and campaigning

Several years ago I was due to run a campaigns workshop in Thailand, and the organiser contacted me to say that they were hoping to combine my sessions with training on story telling and wondered if I felt that this combination might work.

My view was that it seemed a great combination of activities. I have long thought that being a good campaigner you also need to be a good storyteller. With a campaign story you won’t be surprised to learn that I think it needs a clear problem, solution and a target, who has the power to make the desired change.

And then you need to be able to articulate where you have come from – what you have been doing so far. You then need to express where you think you are now with your campaign. And then you need to set out boldly how you think the campaign is going to progress, build momentum and lead to your desired policy or practice change. I think the ability to tell such a story is critical in building support and interest in your campaign.

I once advanced this line on story telling for campaigning, and I got a robust response: I was wrong to mix up campaigning and story telling as that presented campaigners as just passive tellers of a story.

If that is how my argument is understood, then I have failed to communicate it. Far from being passive storytellers, I see campaigners as dynamic story makers. They are telling how they have shaped the story in the past and how they intend to shape the story in the future. So maybe I should change my message slightly? Campaigners are not just storytellers – they are part of making the very stories that they are telling – they are story makers.

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