How story leads to collective wisdom

collective story harvest listening story activism story as a map Apr 05, 2022

Just this morning I was speaking with a fellow facilitator and circle host who had taken part in BEYOND FACILITATION and found herself excited by new learning edges in her practice. She joined us because she senses she wants to strengthen her internal core to be able to host more challenging conversations.

And she said she has followed a deep inner call to stop working one-on-one and move to working with groups. She confirmed what I've also known for a long time -- we learn more, we go deeper and we discover more when we work together. 

She told me she believes we are at the end of a system that tells us we are solely responsIble for what happens to us and invests in "toxic positivity" in order to avoid looking at collective responsibility. So instead of being individuals responsible for everything and intent on growing ourselves (or that more self-violent term: "fixing ourselves"), we become more and better together. 

My work has long had a focus of collective wisdom at its heart and this is also the basis of Collective Story Harvest, the final method we covered in BEYOND FACILITATION. The three words of its name are significant:

STORY is how we make sense and meaning of the world as human beings. It is is how we hold onto and share our lived experience. It is how we learn from each other, and a powerful foundation for a sense of, and cohesion around, community.

HARVESTING is how we make our collective wisdom manifest. When we consider something in a focused way, when we take notes, make a sketch, share what we've heard, we find out everyone listens in a different way and these various perspectives are incredibly rich and useful. My fellow facilitator told me how moved she was to hear what her storytelling partners fed back about her story the week before. She wondered how they could hear so much. It was because they were listening for a purpose. Targeted listening is one of the keys of Collective Story Harvest.

COLLECTIVE meaning making is how we turn our lived experience into wisdom. When we together decide the meaning, using our unique perspectives on life and our unique skills, what appears to be flat or two dimensional -- this happened and then that happened -- suddenly is vested with meaning. We realise that each of us has the responsibility to share what we know and we can collectively become the wiser for it.

Each of us has gold stashed away in our stories. Lived experience is a rich vein we can mine together that both nourishes us and makes us collectively wiser. When we listen for a purpose, when we make sense and meaning together, when we know all of us have something significant to contribute, we make the most of the field nature of groups.

So simple. So powerful. We can put our stories to work in so many ways. We can listen to stories at the edge of our practices, we can listen to two conflicting stories and find how they both offer new light to how we can move forward together. We can listen to stories of projects, inner leadership journeys, different cultures, new ways of working, communities. of practice, organizational founding stories. And we can listen to multiple stories simultaneously and see what we can learn from a broader questions like: "What do we know about making change for good?"

Each part of Collective Story Harvest is a strategic decision. I'll focus on these decisions in my next post.


Is it time for a change in your life? This offer is only for a select few.

Join IGNITE Mastermind and work with Mary Alice and a select group applying Collective Story Harvest to your own life and work to fire up your internal personal power and accelerate your external success. If you’d like to become accredited in the Collective Story Harvest Method, join IGNITE Practitioner.

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