By Bill Wight, NSN Board Chair
You and Your Story Belong Here!
I’d like to extend my remarks from our recently-completed Summit.
The National Storytelling Network stands at a pivotal point in our history. It seems that we must grow or die. Continuing on our present course would likely exhaust our financial reserves within the next few years. But this is not news, nor is it intended to frighten. It is simply an acknowledgment that we cannot go on as we have been.
I have two critical imperatives for my leadership of this organization. The first is to take steps to ensure that everyone in this organization and those with whom we interact feels safe, is heard, and is included. While many of our members may be satisfied in all three of those considerations, there are some who have concerns. Before engaging the second critical
imperative, I want to take steps to assure that such an environment exists and persists within this organization.
What Are You Thinking?
I have recently created a Facebook group called “Tell Me About It!” open to both NSN members and non-members, it’s a place to help inform a discussion about any one of several topics. I have already asked for input on several topics, and will continue to do so. I have only two rules:
- Civility – The discussions must remain civil. The “about“ portion of the Facebook group describes how I expect to address questionable comments.
- Focus – The discussions should stay on topic. If you’re commenting on one topic and thinks of something you’d like to say about a different topic, please go to the other topic before commenting.
There is also a topic for topics! If you don’t see a topic that you would like to put before the group, please visit this special topic and leave a comment expressing your interest.
The “Tell Me About It!” group is but one manifestation of my commitment that members should feel safe, and be heard. Additional evidence of this commitment will need to be lived out through future actions. In my remarks in the Summit’s closing session, I talked mostly about inclusion.
All Forms of Storytelling
NSN does not exclude any genres of storytelling; all are invited to join with us. That said, there is a widespread sentiment that certain types of storytelling are assumed to be “core” to NSN, while others may not be. There have been incidents I’ve observed – and that have been reported to me – in which certain approaches to storytelling have been judged to be “not real
storytelling.” Don’t storytellers face enough challenges without quibbling over nebulous definitions?
What’s important is that storytelling is recognized as a powerful and influential art form, regardless of the context in which it appears. The communication of truth or making of meaning through the mechanism of storytelling is found in the halls of business, in houses of worship, festivals, bars, classrooms, libraries, and all manner of formal and informal settings. If we are to “advance all forms of storytelling,” (our mission) it makes sense that we engage all forms of storytelling – or, to use the language of our values statement, include them.
I call on all members of NSN to actively reach out, to regard as equals all practitioners of storytelling, regardless of genre or generation, skill level or experience. Every place that stories are told, they manifest attributes that are unique to that venue, occasion, teller, and audience. Each has strengths to be shared and also opportunities for improvement. The great advantage conferred by diversity is the opportunity to collaborate with others, exchanging knowledge and
experience with others whose strengths/needs we may not even recognize. If we’re willing to risk acknowledging our shortcomings, areas of ignorance or insecurity – and we can nurture a supportive environment in which to do so – there is no limit to what we can achieve.
Twins – Separated at Birth
We are embarking on a deliberate initiative to engage and embrace previously under-represented forms of storytelling. We do so as peers, not as benevolent guardians. We recognize that each of us has much to learn from those who are not just like us, and we will seek to learn and share, despite potential discomfort, in the pursuit of storytelling. Oh, to live in “a world in which all people value the power of storytelling and its ability to connect, inspire, and instill respect within our hearts and communities.” (our vision) I invite you to join us on this adventure!
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