People and organizations paying attention to storytelling are all over the place – in Stanford Social Innovation Review and at the Haas, Jr. Fund for example – and yet issues like poverty, health care and education (especially of brown and black kids) continue to challenge us as a society.

I commend these efforts and admire these initiatives to elevate positive voices to as Parker Palmer put it, “point and shine a bright light.”  Stories are everywhere, and we are learning to bring a multitude of them to the fore with the variety of tools and sources available to more of us than ever before. At the same time, I am ashamed to admit but am going to say it anyway, that lately my eyes have begun to glaze over when organizations begin to tell the story of this little girl’s success or that man’s triumph.  I am able to pay attention longer when the subjects are telling the stories themselves but only sometimes.  On the most recent occasion, I wanted to stand up after the lights came one and say sarcastically “yeah, and now what?” I know, awful, but I didn’t actually say it.  That feeling stayed with me though.

It stayed with me through the planning of an organizational retreat for a client who values storytelling and as a result we worked on identifying and developing stories to tell, and identifying stories that we need to let go.  Relatively briefly though.  We then went on to connect these stories to strategies, to workplans, to “to-do” lists, to evaluation conversations.  Next we will talk about engaging people beyond the porous organizational boundaries in action beyond the stories.

What’s our responsibility around telling or shining a bright light on the stories that matter?  Where is the movement to action, the catalyzing of the network? I haven’t figured it out, but I’m learning….  What do you do to connect stories with action that produces results?