21 October 2011

Storytelling to Create Action

Lina Srivastava presents at TEDxTransmedia about how providing people the opportunity to tell their own stories can enrich the understanding of how to act and affect change.  I will not summarize the whole thing because I will not do nearly as good of a job as Lina.  So watch the video.  

One section that stood out to me is the beginning of Lina's talk. She starts by telling the story of how she quit being a lawyer and set off to Calcutta to save the world. Brimming with idealism, Lina quickly ran into reality.

"It was clear that the foundation hadn't yet figured out how to talk to talk to the children. How to create programs around the girls that was relevant to their culture." She gives examples of how well intended donors were focused on their own desires rather than the needs of the children. She left the organization but connected with another that had the same goal of working with street children in Calcutta.

The organization was in the midst of making a movie about children who come from the red light district of the city. "The difference of this organization was that the film and the mission of the organization was centered directly on the children's self expression. On their cultural expression. On their photography." The project was successful and Lina attributes that to the fact that the center was the voice and expression of the children. From there the organization has been able to build a home and school for the kids. Having heard their stories, they were able to create a program focused on them and not the needs of the donors.

This, to me, is where storytelling can wield its most significant power. The beneficiaries can communicate their culture and their needs with the world so that programs can support them. This can help to fill out the bare-bones narrative that is currently being told.

Disclosure: I am a huge fan of Lina and try to see her every time I am in NYC. I highly suggest that anyone living in or passing through the city find time to chat with Lina over a cup of coffee.