We get it. Especially around the holidays, many people tend to avoid conversations that they perceive to be controversial: whether that be politics, personal life, or the climate crisis. But the recent uptick in understanding and concern about the latter provides the opportunity for climate conversations with friends and family to not only be uncontroversial, but productive in facilitating positive climate action.
In the local government world, we are constantly trying to push information OUT to members of our community. A new initiative. Results from a previous initiative. A planning process. A public forum. A revamped website. Even when we’re seeking people’s feedback, we’re asking them *our* questions in a survey.
Which is why I found my recent conversation with Rowena Alegria for KLA’s SAS Talk with Kim podcast so fascinating. Alegria has the supremely cool title of Chief Storyteller for the City and County of Denver, Colorado, and the even cooler goal to “change the history of Denver,” one story at a time.
Her team’s approach -- the core of which is a “storytelling lab” -- has had the amazing result of turning interactions with residents into two-way conversations, the holy grail of community engagement. And these aren’t just the usual suspects. Denver’s storytelling labs have drawn a diverse array of Denverites and catalogued stories that you won’t hear at a typical public meeting.
One of our most popular presentations at conferences is a hands-on "How to Turn Your Data Into a Story" session. We talk through the science behind the power of storytelling and why it has been such a force since the days of cave paintings up through today's Facebook posts. Research abounds on how storytelling activates the brain in a way that communicates your message most effectively and can be the spark that empowers people to act.
Stories are remembered up to 22 times more than facts alone. As local governments, we sit on a pile of data. We need to do more with it. We must recognize that pile as a gold mine of compelling stories.
You can use stories to:
- Let your community know about the work you're doing and successes you've had
- Ensure that elected officials and other key stakeholders are aware of those successes and your impact on people's lives
- Engage the community in a planning process
- Inspire people to take action to help meet your sustainability or other goals
We created this Guidebook -- with our storytelling framework, 4 simple steps, examples and practice exercises -- to help you turn your data into stories and those stories into action.