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The story of a peer sharing about storytelling

By Gillian Kranias, HC Link

A peer sharing session is different from a webinar. I enjoyed my first experience of web-based peer sharing in early February when Robyn Kalda and I co-hosted the peer sharing session "Engaging the Power of Story" for our HC Link community.

Over the past ten years, I have been on a personal mission to build awareness and skills for using storytelling more in my life and work. I sought out opportunities to learn and practice, and talked with many colleagues - which highlighted for me how many of us share this capacity building interest. After joining the team of HC Link, I learned that we could support others; and at our conference last fall, the idea of a peer sharing event on storytelling and narrative approaches was born.

Although our initial intention was to keep participant numbers limited (to make for a cozy dialogue), we realized that the cultural roots of storytelling practice would not support turning people away (e.g. principles of an open circle, and "whoever comes was meant to be there"). So we ended up with 35 participants. Some of those participants were self-defined "listeners". But the majority brought experiences to share.

As the lead moderator, I tried to collect a sense of who might be sharing what in advance. It was exciting to discover who found out about this event (especially as it was not the same people and organizations I had crossed storytelling paths with in the past). For those who shared their experiences while registering, I gave them a call to look at how we could prepare examples on the web meeting platform.

On February 11th, it took a long time to get through introductions... but creating that web of connection to launch the peer sharing was important (some introduced themselves by phone, others by our chat box). The conversation was rich and varied, and took us in many directions. This reflected how the power of story can support our work in so many different ways. We did not record the session, but notes are available, as well as two documents with further resources – one developed for HC Link and one shared by a peer participant (view the resources here).

During over an hour of dynamic discussions, one enduring take-away for me came from participants' reflections on the experience of sharing their own stories: how this spawns both personal and community healing (amidst vulnerability); and how waiting for the right moment matters (we are not always ready to share – yet). That reminds me that working with the power of story involves important preparations and development, and we cannot control all our outcomes.

Other examples shared by participants were of their roles in creating those spaces and support for story sharing. One case was storytelling facilitated between elders and youth in the context of community planning discussions; youth learned about the history of community change, which encouraged all to reflect on the role that planning community change could play. Another case was the facilitation of youth groups where the entire program consisted of offering generative questions to facilitate story sharing about the youth's experiences with tobacco – no lectures, just dialogue and allowing the youth to ask informational questions of service provider when their "right moment" had arrived.

We also explored how to tell organizational stories: of our efforts, our work, and our mission/vision/values.

HC Link will continue to look at how we can support your work with Engaging the Power of Story. Click here for our current resources posted from the peer sharing. And don't hesitate to contact me with any questions, suggestions, or support requests.

Gillian Kranias, Health Promotion Consultant
Ext. 2247
416-408-2249 (1-800-397-9567)
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