What is a Story Activist?

A Story Activist is, of course, interested in the power of stories – how they are at work in the world, how they influence life and human systems, how they are created and how they change.

But more than that, a Story Activist is engaged in the art and practice of using story for positive systemic shift and for focusing collective intelligence on the critical issues of our times. In plain speak, that means to activate stories that lead us to a more flourishing future. Where are our stories keeping us stuck? Where can story help us to move first to common ground, and from there, to higher ground? What stories can help us to create our most flourishing future together?

We often talk about stereotyping, but in reality, we are all story-o-typers. Changing our stories about something is a powerful act. A Story Activist is someone who works with the stories of people, places and things to discover and activate their greatest potential. Story Activist practices are the building blocks. The Story Dojo is the place where Story Activists hone their skills.

Build skills in The Story Dojo
A Story Activist is someone who works with the stories of people, places and things to discover and activate their greatest potential.

Does it need to be a current story — one you’re living in now?  In this trailer for a series of events, Mary Alice talks about the story of Denmark going bankrupt in 1813 and why working with it was so important.

Becoming a Story Activist

It’s time to take back the power of your story. Here are some suggestions to encourage you to step into practice as a Story Activist and begin to activate the stories that will make a difference. Why is practice important? Whatever you practice is what grows in your life: Another word for “practice” is “habit”. Whatever you do on a regular basis becomes a habit. Since there are so many competing stories now, it is easy to be overwhelmed or assume you are the mercy of the loudest story being told. Being a Story Activist means cultivating a new habit of actively choosing how you live and work with stories.

Practices to get you started & help you take action

Practice 1

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Be more curious

Stories are the way we make sense and meaning of the world, determining both our level of agency and the actions we take. Curiosity becomes a medium for transformation when used by a Story Activist. Ask a question, elicit a story, make a move. Keep fostering and deepening your curiosity. It can take you everywhere.

Practice 2

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Be a good story listener

Just as we use stories as our lens on the world, we use them as a listening lens too. The art of listening makes you an active co-creator in the telling and will eventually make you a better storyteller and Story Activist, tracking the deeper patterns that lead to transformation.

Practice 3

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Start telling stories that will help us live well together

Stories of connection and contribution help to create a resonant field of change. What stories do we need to STOP telling? Which do we need to KEEP telling? What stories do we need to START telling?

Practice 4

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Build your capacity to create spaces for stories to be shared

Hone the capacity for hosting generous space -- spaces and places that create a container for stories to be heard, shared, welcomed and worked with. Change your stance from hero to host to bring more voices together.

Practice 5

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Ask yourself: "What is mine to do?"

Ask yourself: "How does my story need to grow and change? What is mine to do? What are my next elegant steps?". Take time to deeply sense into your piece of the puzzle. Illuminate what you need to let go of and the responsibilities, challenges and gifts to be taken up now. Be in fierce practice.

Practice 6

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Find your team. Lean in. Stay connected.

It takes a field to shift a field. Find your team -- who are the people who will be the strong core? Set your principles and ways of working so you can lean in and stay together through the challenges which are part of any worthwhile endeavour.

Practice 7

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Take courage, focus on what matters & begin anywhere.

You have the resources you need, now find the ways to take up and strengthen your courage. Keep purpose at the centre. Start wherever there is energy. Keeping your focus will tell you where to move next.

Practice 8

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if it's about them, don't do it without them

How many times have policies been set where those impacted were not part of the decision? Having all stakeholder voices in the room ensures the knowledge of the full system can be at play and people are committed to make change happen.

Practice 9

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Focus on the possible. Dream the impossible.

Be the patient gardener. Plant the small seeds and tend them well. At the same time, keep the vision of the beautiful forest in your mind's eye. Big things start from small beginnings and small things tended with big heart can work wonders.

Practice 10

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Commit to being a learner. Keep practicing.

If you want to be a practitioner, you need to keep practicing! That makes a commitment to learning an incredibly practical -- and enjoyable -- thing! Invitation is magnetic. Staying on your own learning edge invites others to be in learning, too!

Using story for positive systemic shift and for focusing collective intelligence on the critical issues of our times

Photo credits: Practice 2: H. Preyer; Practice 9: Macpherson Photographers

Strengthen your story muscles.
Find out more:

The Story Activist Intensive
The Story Activist Lab