Storytelling: A Powerful Tool for Public Service and Social Change

Storytelling can be a powerful tool for public servants and change agents. For this reason, our radio show is a platform for people to share their personal public service and social change stories. We hope that our listeners will be inspired to start or continue serving as a result of these stories.

In March of 2009, Marshall Ganz wrote an article that appeared in Sojourners magazine entitled “Why Stories Matter.” Ganz clearly explains why storytelling is important for social change leadership. He explains three types of stories, a story of self, a story of us and a story of now, leaders should tell.

A leadership story is first a story of self, a story of “why I’ve been called.” The story of self has little to do with the roles (teacher, student, cook, servant, etc.), but the story of self is one that gets to the core of ones identity. Those stories of challenges, relationships and successes that helped shape our service and social change journey. “In a sense, all of us walk around with a text from which to teach, the text of our own lives.”

The second story is the story of us. That’s an answer to the question, why are we called? What experiences and values do we share as a community that calls us to serve? The story of us is putting what we share into words. “We’ve all been in places where people have worked together for years, but there’s no us there because they don’t share their stories.” We have to be willing to share our stories of self in order to get others to serve!

Finally, there’s the story of now—the fierce urgency of now. The story of now is realizing, after the sharing of values and aspirations, that the world out there is not as it ought to be. From here, we have to strategize and develop ways to serve others and tackle social issues. The story of now “forces upon us consideration of a choice.”

The story of self helps us develop relationships. The story of us helps motivate us to work together. The story of now helps us strategize ways to make a difference. After all of the storytelling and strategizing, it is now time to act!