Organizing? First build trust by sharing your story.

5 mins read

Organizing? First build trust by sharing your story.

Use your personal story to organize others to join the movement.
Cesar Chavez organizes farm workers

Good organizers build trust before asking others for their support. How? Personal storytelling.

Organizers share their own personal stories to quickly establish rapport and mobilize others to support their cause.

“Their story presents a specific challenge they faced, the choice they made about how to deal with the challenge, and the outcome. The story invites listeners to connect with their movement.” – Marshall Ganz in Working Narratives.

Write your personal story

Story of self is a communication technique used by organizers to build instant rapport with others and mobilize them to a cause.
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Storytelling works in any language

Organizers work in communities that speak different languages. Here are six versions of the two minute tutorial on sharing your personal story in six languages.EnglishSpanishChineseKoreanVietnameseTagalog

Eight minute storytelling course

This lesson is also available for free from Udemy as an extended (eight minute version) with two examples of two organizers sharing their personal stories. Udemy is a free service where you can stream educational content for free or for a fee. Udemy let’s you have students answer questions to gauge their understanding of the course material and also track who has completed the course. The Personal Story Telling for Organizers does not have any quizzes!

This lesson is also available for free from Udemy as an extended (eight minute version) with two examples of two organizers sharing their personal stories. Udemy is a free service where you can host educational content that can be streamed for free or charged for.

Keep you story ‘real’

“The core of a story is a plot, a moment of choice in which a protagonist is confronted by a challenge for which he or she is not prepared, but which he or she must nevertheless face, the outcome of which we take away as the “moral.” Why do we pay attention? Because it is in plot moments that we most fully experience the gift of agency as human beings – moments of real anxiety, to be sure, but also of exhilaration — when our choices matter most, but we are least prepared to make them. And because we identify empathetically with the protagonist, we not only “understand” the dilemma with our heads, but we experience the dilemma in our hearts. This is why our families, faith traditions, cultural traditions, organizations, movements and communities all teach through story.” – Marshall Ganz, Professor, Harvard Kennedy School of Government.

James Croft’s personal story about LGBT Bullying at Harvard

Practice sharing your ‘story of self

Practice delivering your story so you can share it easily with conviction. Insert pauses and highlight the words to emphasize. Do it for free with the BigStage Teleprompter app on your phone, iPad or laptop. Adjust the font size and scroll speed to your speaking style. Practice maintaining eye contact with your listeners while you read the script.

Organizers can create a sample stories (like this one) and share it with volunteers to personalize and practice delivering. Create different scripts based on issues, location and volunteer demographics.

Practice sharing your personal story with the free Big Stage Teleprompter app so you can better organize and mobilize others to your cause.

Storytelling resources for organizers

Working Narratives – What is Public Narrative and how can we use it?
The Power of Story in Social Movements – Marshall Gantz
Story Based Strategy – The Commons Social Change Library
Storytelling for community organizing – Saul Alinsky in American Studies Journal
Rules For Radicals – Saul Alinsky

TakeAway: Learn and teach the personal storytelling skills to improve organizing and canvassing.


Image credit: American History

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