TELLING YOUR STORY
When we meet with our MPs we have two really powerful tools in our arsenal; the potential to create the political will to end hunger and the worst aspects of extreme poverty, and ourselves. These two things are inseparable.
Telling your story may be hard however, in the grand scheme of politics and media we’ve largely been made to feel that we aren’t valued, or perhaps even that we don’t matter – but that’s not true. ONE key moment can shift the narrative or dialogue around poverty, and even not having something means something – if your story is full of privilege and comfort, ask yourself when, how, and why you’re now here as an advocate playing your part to end extreme poverty?
We all have a personal experience and a unique view of the world. Our ability to effectively assert this in our meetings and media pieces reflects on our memorability. To help harness this power, there are a few technical hints that can support your story and give you the legitimacy to make a difference.
These techniques are supported by RESULTS and have long been tested out by our advocates. In order to take your story to that next level, thinking about the implications of your words and language on the public can help you further your political impact.
The story of self, us and now
To best unlock its impact, your story should flow from a personal moment in time (self), to how that affects or reflects the values of your community (us), and end by motivating your listener into action (now). Visualised below, this structure enables you to break down a moment that may seem mundane, and turn it into a relatable and hopeful piece that can draw others to action:
When telling your story, the key is to understand that values inspire action through emotion. The challenge is being able to identify and overcome emotions that inhibit actions in order to promote emotions that promote action through encouragement. This step recognises two forms of action; Inhibitors and Motivators. There is a system however that allows you to move from one to the other and it is useful to insert this voice into your story if you are find that Inhibitors begin to emerge:
|YCMAD (You can make a difference)||Self-doubt|
So, tying encouragement to the story is best achieved by telling the why’s and how’s of your experience and the choices you made in response. What we value in ourselves however becomes a function of three interconnected stories – the self, the us, and the now.
When thinking about the self, ask, what choice parts, relationships or moments drove you to action? It is the uncertainty in our life, the questions and what we are unsure of that makes us question the way we are living. It’s your specific response to this that makes your story interesting – why did you want to end global poverty? And why did you choose to tackle it via advocacy and media? The path you took may be unique to you, but the emotions hiding behind these decisions help to find common ground with your audience to establish a connection and interest. This self becomes a character as you tell your story but its basis remains in reality – that is why it is powerful.
Once you have reflected upon yourself, fit this into the wider network and support system that enabled your advocacy. The concept of us can be confusing, but what is meant by this is the collective, the organisation, the movement or could even be generational. These groups activate the human element in the policy and economics of development and create an engaging story. Within this, it is your job to create a sense of community around people even if they don’t feel it so much themselves.
Us can fit more broadly into a generational experience or it can refer only to your group. You need to flesh out the challenges you face, the actions you are taking, your strengths, capacities and skills. Are there shared stories and values between group members?
The now is all about urgency, a reason and a call to action. This issue needs to be framed as relevant and urgent, you need to create a vivid picture of your idealised result so that readers can imagine the effects of change. Outline a why, a how, and a how come.
It’s useful to think of this in terms of there being a present and a future aspect to your advocacy, The story is no longer something that has happened, but rather is happening and won’t be happening into the future. Rooted in the values fleshed out through the self and the us, the now allows your story to engage an otherwise passive reader to be included in the solution -take action, now.
At all three of these stages you need to be thinking about the ‘why’s and how’s. Why are you talking about this? How did you get here?
Most importantly however your central figures need to become characters. A useful framework for considering this is the Challenge-Choice-Outcome structure. These three are central to your character, your group or your issue. Incorporate the challenge that confronts your character and their need to make a choice in response.
A challenge however doesn’t need to be a source of negativity but rather a source of good. The outcome too can be an idealised representation of a moral – shared with your audience.
What was the specific challenge you/your group/your issue faced?
What was the choice you/your group/your issue made?
What happened as a result?
What hope can it give to us?
This involves the translation of your values into stories to motivate action, build relationships, and maintain commitments. Think about why you want to communicate your concerns and if this is reflected in your writing? What is it that you care about most and are you representing this fairly? It is useful to consider this step after a first draft. You may even find it cathartic to destroy this first attempt, to start afresh with only the ideas you value most in your mind.
Putting it all together
Now that you have thought about your story, and any hurdles you may face in telling it, it’s time to put it all together and link these ideas. Think about what the current narrative is around poverty, and try to include a story that tells of the opposite reality, i.e. you being helped by a local villager, a statement that challenges what people think. Do not give too much detail, and be ambiguous in places where people can fill the gaps.
If you can apply these techniques, alongside the narrative project’s terminology, you can create an encompassing piece that will greatly impact the way the public view aid. In doing so, we can activate a new understanding of the power of the people living in the world’s poorest communities whilst heralding the capability of our everyday advocates.
You can change the world from your keyboard and it all starts today.