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Jun 042019
 

This is the first part of a three-part series on storytelling and community organizing.

Indigenous communities have used stories for teaching and passing down information for thousands of years. Today, science is catching up and starting to understand the importance of storytelling. 

Storytelling isn’t just a better way to connect with your audience:  It also improves their retention of your presentation. “The data shows that all audiences retain emotions and stories better than facts and figures.” (Source)

I believe that to be a good organizer, it is important to use storytelling.  I’ve used stories to break logjams, to explain concepts that are difficult to understand and to help with fund-raising. 

When I was first starting to work with a multiracial group in rural North Carolina, I brought a group of whites and Blacks together in the same room.  I had placed the chairs in a circle, but people ended up moving their chairs to opposite walls, dividing themselves by race.  

I didn’t know what to do.   

But falling back on the power of stories, I asked each person to tell a story of what they wanted for their children.  As people began to share, they realized they had the same concerns, fears and hopes for their families.  The logjam broke.  They became animated and engaged, and began to move their chairs closer together.  

That was the beginning of one of the largest multiracial organizations in the South at the time. 

To get people comfortable telling their own stories, one exercise I use is called “The Three Stepping Stones.” It involves people identifying three stepping stones, or life events that have brought them to working for social justice today.  

I started using it when I faced a logjam of my own. 

Some time ago, I was asked to lead a workshop for media communicators at the last minute.  As I drove to the gathering, I wondered why I had ever agreed.  I had no idea what I was going to do with these experienced communicators.  

I arrived in a panic but then I saw a garden filled with river stones.  I gathered a bunch of stones in my shirt, intending to return them all at the end of the workshop. 

When the group came into my workshop, I asked them each to pick three stones and to think of three stepping stones, or life events, that brought them to the work they were doing for justice.  Then people went into small groups off our, with 15 minutes each to tell their stories.  

Afterwards, many people talked about how powerful it was for them to hear each other and to tell their own stories.  One woman asked if she could take the stones home with her to tell these stories to her husband of 30 years and her family.  She had never shared her powerful, life-changing events with them.  

Telling each other our stories is one of the most powerful things we can do to organize deeply and profoundly.  It reinforces the importance of our work in a way that people can connect to and understand. 

And just for the record, I did return the stones to the garden at the end ofthe workshop, though minus several stones people had took back home with them!

Apr 282018
 

Building Power to Win:

Developing and Running an Empowering Voter Registration & Get Out the Vote Campaign

with Linda Stout, Spirit in Action

(Offered thru Peoples Hub, an online Movement Building School)

May 17, Thu 1-3pm EST
May 19, Sat 1-3 pm EST
May 22, Tue 7-9 pm EST

In this important interactive online workshop, learn ways to most effectively register and turn people out for the upcoming mid-term elections. To sign up, click here. Also, please forward to folks you think would be interested in attending.

Voter Registration/Get Out the Vote is a critical tool for building power to win on issues affecting our communities. This training will teach you how to develop a non-partisan Voter Registration campaign, how to mobilize disenfranchised people to participate in the electoral process and, building upon that pre-work, run a successful and empowering Get Out the Vote campaign.

What people have said about “Building Power to Win”

“It was so inspiring and exciting to hear stories and get ideas based on real voter registration and get out the vote campaigns that have had a major impact. Anyone doing voter registration or get out the vote campaigning or even CONSIDERING doing that should check this out!” (Jeanne Rewa, Terre Haute, IN).

“”Building Power To Win” offers such critical tools for this political moment. As a young organizer, so many of the early campaigns I was a part of struggled to build a long-lasting and powerful base of support. Linda tells inspiring stories about her own experiences in effective base-building that make it clear that building our power to win is possible.” (Jess Grady-Benson, Seattle, WA)

“It’s not very often that you walk out of a training or workshop feeling that both your intellect and emotions were stimulated by the experience you had with your facilitator and other participants. Linda’s workshop provided just that–and in an online setting! A deeper understanding of how to run a GOTV campaign, as well as the impassioned urgency to act.” (Julieta Vitullo, Seattle, WA)

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Trainer Information:

For Linda’s bio, click here.

“When I built Piedmont Peace Project, a multi-racial poor people’s organization in 1984, we were able to train around 5000 leaders and to mobilize 44,000 people over a period of five years. Through using the ballot box and holding elected officials accountable, we were able to make dramatic changes. For example, our congressman, who sat on the Defense Appropriations Committee and chaired the New Military Construction Subcommittee, changed his voting record from 0% to 87% on peace issues, and from 33% to 98% on social justice issues. Through empowering low-income people to take on leadership roles, we were awarded the National Grassroots Peace Award.” (Linda Stout, North Carolina)

Nov 202017
 

Voice Vision Action

Click here to read the entire Fall 2017 Newsletter

Dear Friends,

Do you feel like burying your head in the sand?

I do! I don’t want to think about what the latest disastrous or obscene thing Trump has said or done. I don’t want to look at the destruction from hurricanes and droughts, or the lack of response of our government to Puerto Rico’s heartbreaking situation. I don’t want to look at mass gun shootings, or another innocent black man being shot down.

I would love to be able to ignore the massive wild fires, horrific treatment to people of color and immigrants, and the loss of LGBTQ and women’s rights. I don’t want to think of a looming threat of a possible nuclear war. Many of us are actually getting sick from the tension, sleeplessness, anxiety and trauma.

I would love to turn away from all of it, close my eyes, not listen, and turn off my feelings. But, I can’t. None of us can!

So, how do we overcome the helplessness we feel in this battle for our lives, the lives of our fellow peoples and Mother Earth? First, we must do whatever we can to join with and support those working for justice. We must work from a place of love and action. We must focus on the positive and grow from those glimmering seeds of hope. We must work from our vision of a clean, just and sustainable world. We will be successful if we stay grounded in our communities —from local to worldwide communities.

At Spirit in Action, we’ve taken time to re-evaluate, and look at ways to move forward in positive and transformative ways in these perilous times. We are addressing these issues by building on our strengths, redesigning our workshops and trainings to have the maximum impact. We are working on this through our programs: Standing in Our Power and Changing the Way We Do Change.

We do not have the luxury to turn off what is happening. We must address these problems.

The times we are in demand that we be flexible, creative and proactive. This is not the time to stand back and see what happens. We cannot afford to put our heads in the sand.

Peace, power and love,

 

 

Linda Stout
Executive Director

Spirit in Action