A STORY OF SELF tells why we have been called to serve.
It expresses the values or experiences that call each person to take leadership on a given issue. The purpose of telling your story of self is to begin to create common ground with your audience by sharing a story that reflects the values that brought you to work on your given issue, and where those values come from.
The key to storytelling is understanding that values inspire action through emotion. We experience our values emotionally — they are what actually move us to act. Because stories allow us to express our values not as abstract principles, but as lived experience, they have the power to move others to action as well.
Why tell stories?
Storytelling is one of the most powerful tools organizers can use to unite a movement. Your story is the “why” of organizing — the art of translating values into action through stories. It is an ongoing discussion process through which individuals, communities and nations construct their identity, make choices and inspire action. Each of us has a compelling story to tell that can move others.
The key focus is on choice points: moments in our lives when values are formed because of a need to choose in the face of great uncertainty. When did you first care about being heard, or learn that you were concerned about the issue on which you want to take action? Why? When did you feel you had to do something about it? Why did you feel you could? What were the circumstances? What specific choice did you make? - John Light
Writing Your STORY OF SELF
Challenge: What was the specific challenge you faced? Why did you feel it was a challenge? What was so challenging about it? Why was it your challenge?
Choice: What was the specific choice you made? Why did you make the choice you did? Where did you get the courage (or not)? Where did you get the hope (or not)? How did it feel?
Outcome: What happened as a result of your choice? What hope can it give us? How did the outcome feel? Why did it feel that way? What did it teach you? What do you want to teach us? How do you want us to feel?
These tips for constructing your “story of self” are adapted from 350.org’s toolkit, which was compiled with help from Marshall Ganz and other organizing experts. This post is published under the Creative Commons license and can be reprinted.
Practice telling your STORY OF SELF
Write your story and practice delivering it with the free BigStage Teleprompter app. Simply paste your script into the teleprompter, adjust the font size and the scroll speed. You can practice sharing your story on a phone, tablet or laptop.
Here is an example of President Obama's speech at the 2004 DNC Convention. Notice how he uses the STORY OF SELF to describe his values and bring a shared set of values with the audience. Watch President Obama deliver his 8 minute speech on C-SPAN. Read the transcript here.
TakeAway: Learn how to tell your STORY OF SELF better to bring about the change you want.
Credit: This video was created by Demetris Akinnaso. She is a UX Designer with experience in research, data, and strategy and applies her skills to create impactful user experiences.
DISCLAIMER: ALTHOUGH THE DATA FOUND IN THIS BLOG AND INFOGRAPHIC HAS BEEN PRODUCED AND PROCESSED FROM SOURCES BELIEVED TO BE RELIABLE, NO WARRANTY EXPRESSED OR IMPLIED CAN BE MADE REGARDING THE ACCURACY, COMPLETENESS, LEGALITY OR RELIABILITY OF ANY SUCH INFORMATION. THIS DISCLAIMER APPLIES TO ANY USES OF THE INFORMATION WHETHER ISOLATED OR AGGREGATE USES THEREOF.
President Obama's speech transcript
MY PRESENCE ON THIS STAGE IS PRETTY UNLIKELY. MY FATHER WAS A FOREIGN STUDENT BORN AND RAISED IN A SMALL VILLAGE IN KENYA.
HE GREW UP HERDING GOATS, WENT TO SCHOOL IN A TIN ROOF SHACK. HIS FATHER, MY GRANDFATHER, WAS A COOK, A DOMESTIC SERVANT TO THE BRITISH. BUT MY GRANDFATHER HAD LARGER DREAMS FOR HIS SON. THROUGH HARD WORK AND PERSEVERANCE, MY FATHER GOT A SCHOLARSHIP TO STUDY IN A MAGICAL PLACE, AMERICA, THAT SHONE AS A BEACON OF FREEDOM AND OPPORTUNITY TO SO MANY WHO HAD COME BEFORE.
WHILE STUDYING HERE MY FATHER MET MY MOTHER. SHE WAS BORN IN A TOWN ON THE OTHER SIDE OF THE WORLD, IN KANSAS. HER FATHER WORKED ON OIL RIGS AND FARMS THROUGH MOST OF THE DEPRESSION. THE DAY AFTER PEARL HARBOR, MY GRANDFATHER SIGNED UP FOR DUTY. JOINED THE ARMY, MARCHED ACROSS EUROPE. BACK HOME MY GRANDMOTHER RAISED A BABY AND WENT TO WORK ON A BOMBER ASSEMBLY LINE. AFTER THE WAR, THEY STUDIED ON THE G.I. BILL, BOUGHT A HOUSE THROUGH F.H.A., AND LATER MOVED WEST ALL THE WAY TO HAWAII IN SEARCH OF OPPORTUNITY. AND THEY, TOO, HAD BIG DREAMS FOR THEIR DAUGHTER. A COMMON DREAM BORN OF TWO CONTINENTS.
MY PARENTS SHARED NOT ONLY AN IMPROBABLE LOVE, THEY SHARED AN ABIDING FAITH IN THE POSSIBILITIES OF THIS NATION. THEY WOULD GIVE ME AN AFRICAN NAME, BARACK, BELIEVING IN A TOLERANT AMERICA YOUR NAME IS NO BARRIER TO SUCCESS. THEY IMAGINED -- THEY IMAGINED ME GOING TO THE BEST SCHOOLS IN THE LAND EVEN THOUGH THEY WEREN'T RICH BECAUSE IN A GENEROUS AMERICA YOU DON'T HAVE TO BE RICH TO ACHIEVE YOUR POTENTIAL. THEY HAVE BOTH PASSED AWAY NOW AND YET I KNOW THAT ON THIS NIGHT THEY LOOK DOWN ON ME WITH GREAT PRIDE. THEY STAND HERE AND I STAND HERE TODAY GRATEFUL FOR THE DIVERSITY OF MY HERITAGE, AWARE THAT MY PARENTS' DREAMS LIVE ON IN MY TWO PRECIOUS DAUGHTERS.
I STAND HERE KNOWING THAT MY STORY IS PART OF THE LARGER AMERICAN STORY, THAT I OWE A DEBT TO ALL OF THOSE WHO CAME BEFORE ME AND THAT IN NO OTHER COUNTRY ON EARTH IS MY STORY EVEN POSSIBLE.
TONIGHT WE GATHER TO AFFIRM THE GREATNESS OF OUR NATION. NOT BECAUSE OF THE HEIGHT OF OUR SKYSCRAPERS OR THE POWER OF OUR MILITARY OR THE SIZE OF OUR ECONOMY, OUR PRIDE IS BASED ON A VERY SIMPLE PREMISE. SUMMED UP IN A DECLARATION MADE OVER 200 YEARS AGO. WE HOLD THESE TRUTHS TO BE SELF-EVIDENT, THAT ALL MEN ARE CREATED EQUAL. THAT THEY ARE ENDOWED BY THEIR CREATOR WITH CERTAIN INALIENABLE RIGHTS AMONG THESE ARE LIFE, LIBERTY, AND THE PURSUIT OF HAPPINESS.
THAT IS THE TRUE GENIUS OF AMERICA. A FAITH IN SIMPLE DREAMS. AN INSISTENCE ON SMALL MIRACLES. THAT WE CAN TUCK IN OUR CHILDREN AT NIGHT AND KNOW THAT THEY ARE FED AND CLOTHED AND SAFE FROM HARM. AND WE CAN SAY WHAT WE THINK, WRITE WHAT WE THINK WITHOUT HEARING A STUD KNOCK ON THE DOOR, THAT WE CAN HAVE AN IDEA AND START OUR OWN BUSINESS WITHOUT PAYING A BRIBE,
THAT WE CAN PARTICIPATE IN THE POLITICAL PROCESS WITHOUT FEAR OF RETRIBUTION AND THAT OUR VOTES WILL BE COUNTED, AT LEAST MOST OF THE TIME. THIS YEAR IN THIS ELECTION WE ARE CALLED 30 REAFFIRM OUR VALUES AND OUR COMMITMENTS, TO HOLD THEM AGAINST A HARD REALITY AND SEE HOW WE'RE MEASURING UP TO THE LEGACY OF OUR FORBEARERS AND THE PROMISE OF FUTURE GENERATIONS.
FUTURE AMERICANS, DEMOCRATS, REPUBLICANS, DEMOCRATS, INDEPENDENTS, I SAY TO YOU WE HAVE MORE WORK TO DO. MORE WORK TO DO FOR THE WORKERS I MET IN ILLINOIS WHO ARE LOSING THEIR UNION JOBS AT THE MAYTAG PLANT THAT'S MOVING TO MEXICO AND NOW WE'RE HAVING TO COMPETE WITH THEIR OWN CHILDREN FOR JOBS THAT PAY $7 AN HOUR, OR THE FATHER I MET THAT WAS LOSING HIS JOB AND CHOKING BACK THE TEARS WONDERING HOW HE WOULD PAY $4,500 A MONTH FOR THE DRUGS HIS SON NEEDS WITHOUT THE HEALTH BENEFITS THAT HE COUNTED ON. MORE TO DO FOR THE YOUNG WOMAN IN EAST ST. LOUIS AND THOUSANDS MORE LIKE HER WHO HAS THE GRADES, HAS THE DRIVE, HAS THE WILL BUT DOESN'T HAVE THE MONEY TO GO TO COLLEGE.
NOW DON'T GET ME WRONG, THE PEOPLE I MEET IN SMALL TOWNS AND BIG CITIES AND DINERS AND OFFICE PARKS, THEY DON'T EXPECT GOVERNMENT TO SOLVE ALL OF THEIR PROBLEMS. THEY KNOW THEY HAVE TO WORK HARD TO GET AHEAD AND THEY WANT TO. GO INTO THE COUNTIES AROUND CHICAGO AND PEOPLE WILL TELL YOU THEY DON'T WANT THEIR TAX MONEY WASTED BY A WELFARE AGENCY OR BY THE PENTAGON. GO INTO ANY INNER CITY NEIGHBORHOOD AND FOLKS WILL TELL YOU THAT GOVERNMENT ALONE CAN'T TEACH OUR KIDS TO LEARN. THEY KNOW THE PARENTS HAVE TO TEACH. THE CHILDREN CAN'T ACHIEVE UNLESS WE RAISE THEIR EXPECTATIONS AND TURN OFF THE TELEVISION SETS AND ERADICATE THE SLAPPEDER THAT SAYS A BLACK YOUTH WITH A BOOK IS ACTING WHITE. THEY KNOW THOSE THINGS.
PEOPLE DON'T EXPECT GOVERNMENT TO SOLVE ALL THEIR PROBLEMS BUT THEY SENSE DEEP IN THEIR BONES THAT WITH JUST A SLIGHT CHANGE IN PRIORITIES WE COULD MAKE SURE THAT EVERY CHILD IN AMERICA HAS A DECENT SHOT AT LIFE. AND THAT THE DOORS OF OPPORTUNITY REMAIN OPEN TO ALL. THEY KNOW WE CAN DO BETTER AND THEY WANT THAT CHOICE.