Showing posts from 2018

Understanding Helpers: from folklore to nonprofits

Before you can defeat a dragon, you need some help. Everyone seems to understand the idea of the helper in a narrative as a figure that the hero encounters on their journey. The helper helps the hero, sometimes through an outright gift but, often, as a reward for some relatively small kindness that the hero rendered to the helper well before the hero knew that this figure might offer such rewards. But how much do we ever really know about the helper? And how might that relate to the helping work of nonprofit organizations? Take the Russian tale of  Vasilisa . At the house of the evil witch Baba Yaga, Vasilisa is kind to the hungry cat, so the cat gives her a ribbon and a comb. When she is making her escape from the witch, she throws the ribbon behind her and it turns into a river, then she throws the comb behind and it turns into a thick forest. Vasilisa had her instructions to throw the ribbon and comb behind her, but she did not have any way of knowing that the

Teaching Storytelling: Example Assignments

In a short paper for the journal Education for Information, called "Storytelling as Non-Textual Pedagogy," I describe some of my course themes, related assignments, and assessments for those assignments. This blog post offers a quick look at three of the assignments for my storytelling courses to augment that forthcoming paper. Three assignments: 1. Future File assignment 2. Storytelling in Professions paper 3. Storytelling apps posting 1. Future File assignment Your future file is a long-term tool for you in your career as a storyteller. During the semester, you should read as many stories as possible from various genres and cultures. Keep a file of those stories you might like to tell, including folktales, picture book texts, personal tales, fairy tales, myths and legends, and selections from contemporary literature. These might be stories you forsee using in the future for library programs, curriculum enrichment, literacy promotion at festivals, or stories that y

Story Before Storage

"Story before storage" has become my catchphrase for addressing a big issue with nonprofit data. In my consulting work, I've seen this problem over and over in data collection approaches used by nonprofits. The problem is that nonprofits are collecting and storing data that they have never told as a story or used to connect with stakeholders. When we say "data-driven decision making," there is an implication that the data tells the story, that all our stakeholders need is access to the complete data and they will be able to see our story. This is as ineffective as imagining that all someone needs to understand how to operate complex machinery is a detailed diagram of the engine, gears, and pedals. At worst, we collect data, maybe make some decisions, and then store it without ever telling the story of why we made those decisions based on that data. When you move from data collection to storage without letting it inform a story that your stakeholders can see an