We all tell stories. We are people shaped by stories told before us and we are creating our own as we carry through each day. Up until just a few weeks ago, I couldn’t say that I had analyzed this practice very much, but Rick Stone’s Storytelling Workshop for Leaders offered through RCE Greater Atlanta gave me a space to do so. RCE Greater Atlanta is a sustainability network acknowledged by the United Nations as a Regional Center of Expertise on Education for sustainable development. The Network focuses on implementing sustainable development goals through education and training.
On June 27, 2019, students, faculty, mentors, and leaders from over 30 different universities, institutions, community organizations, nonprofits, government, and environment groups gathered at the West Atlanta Watershed Alliance (WAWA) to learn about “How to Harness the Power of Story to More Effectively Lead and Present” through Rick and the RCE partnership. Throughout the workshop we were able to listen to stories, share parts of ourselves and our stories with others, learn why stories are important to organizations and leaders, and begin to understand how to use storytelling to impact others and capture people’s attention. One of the most valuable lessons that I learned in the workshop was that a story is a co-creative process between the storyteller and the listener and that a good story invites a listener to reflect. While some stories have morals or lessons that seem obvious, captivating stories allow a person to discover a tale’s relevance through reflection.
Rick captivated this audience throughout the afternoon by touching on various topics surrounding leadership and organizational values. Through this workshop audience members learned how to craft a logline which is a short phrase or sentence that briefly describes a story. From here we learned about expanding upon this logline through creative imagery, tone, and spontaneity. Each of these tactics can turn a mission into a logline that soon develops into a story made up of people, relationships, and problems to overcome. Often times, “the bigger the problem, the better the story.” This tagline was helpful for many as there are often many problems to overcome in the work of sustainability and organizational development, as told by leaders attending the workshop.
Attendees left wonderful remarks about the insights that they gained from the workshop. One participant commented that they learned how to “use a springboard story to tell their community about changes that are happening within their organization.” This springboard tactic was focused on heavily during the workshop and many people will be able to use it to rally behind and share their organization’s mission. Another attendee mentioned that “images always trump words” even in oral communication. When a speaker is able to paint a picture through their words, the listener is able to see a personalized version of the story based on description through imagery. A third attendee shared that they are on the right track to writing their own book with the skills that they acquired throughout the afternoon.
Rick has been helping nonprofit organizations and businesses discover how to use the power of story to achieve real-world results for nearly thirty years. Here’s what he said about the workshop. “It was a real honor to work with so many leaders who have a shared vision about creating a sustainable world. The more I have learned, it’s clear to me that the technology and knowhow already exist to solve the many climatic challenges we currently face. What is missing is the ability to tell a compelling story that will engage all those sitting on the fence to get engaged. My hope is that this workshop will be just the first of many to equip leaders in our community with this crucial skill.”
I am grateful to have had the opportunity to meet so many different community leaders and share stories on this afternoon in this collaborative learning environment facilitated through the RCE Greater Atlanta network. I write this hoping that I will be able to attend a Storytelling workshop Part 2 in the upcoming months. As I continue to think about developing my own stories, I will carry this advice with me, “If you can’t tell your story, it doesn’t matter how much you know.” Thank you to Rick Stone, the generous staff at WAWA, and all of the attendees for making this productive workshop possible!