Storytelling for impact and change

Deans’ D&I Excellence Award nominees participated in a Storytelling for Change and Impact workshop with facilitator Michelle Newell from The Storytelling Business

In conjunction with the 2022 Deans’ D&I Excellence Awards, nominees were invited to participate in a Storytelling for Change and Impact workshop with facilitator Michelle Newell from The Storytelling Business. The workshop provided participants an opportunity to shape their D&I stories in a safe and supportive space. In particular, they focussed on their own role as agents of change in instigating and leading important initiatives in the University. Whether a group or individual story, the participants were supported to use storytelling to amplify their voices and raise awareness of the projects and people they are working with.

Michelle Newell presenting Storytelling workshop

The storytelling workshop was an opportunity for each participant to consider their own personal impact story in the context of their professional role. Finding and sharing our experience in the form of a story not only helps us better connect with an audience or community, but is also a way to better articulate our values and purpose.

As a framework for telling stories, the participants explored the classic narrative arc for storytelling: a setup that builds tension, a climax with conflict, and a resolution that draws out lessons learned. As a warm-up exercise, participants chose a photo that meant something to them on a personal level.  They advocate on behalf of, including women and First Nations, LGBTIQ+ and culturally and linguistically diverse people, have been silenced and misrepresented in mainstream media. As storytellers in the D&I space, the group acknowledged their opportunity to act as allies and use their platform to share stories of diversity, challenge, and hope, to ideally open dialogue, reframe conversations, foster empathy and spark change.

Storytelling workshop participants

As participants worked their way through their story design, they learnt that knowing the audience was important as it allowed us to shape a story that taps into shared values and goals, and appeals to their interests, challenges, and aspirations. Participants were encouraged to not just consider social or institutional structures that may have created barriers to their work, but to explore the internal self-doubt and personal barriers they encountered and ultimately overcame.

The workshop was not just an opportunity to learn more about story design and begin crafting one’s own story. It was also a chance to meet new people in the D&I space at the University, and an opportunity to take a break from the typical workday and spend time reflecting on the work that we do, and why we do it.