Stories (and StoryTellers) That Change Lives

March 23, 2011 //

March 23, 2011
By Nick Challed

In 2009, On The Move had the opportunity to host the annual retreat of the S.H. Cowell Foundation Board of Directors, with the goal of effectively sharing the story, message and mission of the McPherson Neighborhood Initiative. Of course, a desired outcome of sharing our story was for the Board to remain committed to its partnership with On The Move. However, the process of developing and sharing out story was perhaps the most impactful on the “story-tellers” themselves.

When beginning to develop the collective story of the McPherson Neighborhood for the S.H. Cowell Retreat, we
were unclear how the many perspective and pieces of our work fit together. In order to “discover” our story, we brought together Spanish-speaking immigrants and their English-speaking neighbors, who were determined to hear what mattered most to one another, even if some words were lost in translation. After months of preparation, a powerful and collective story emerged of the common dream we each held for the 2,000 children living in the McPherson neighborhood. As a result, we were able to truly see the interconnectedness of our work and the
rick possibility we are capable of by working together.

A central practice of this work has been a continuous process of sharing our stories with the world, while listening to the stories of others. We have noticed that many of our biggest moments of growth, as well as our biggest impacts in the world – occur when we are able to create the space and time to truly share and listen to meaningful stories.

Since 2004, On The Move has implemented programs and initiatives that develop the next generation of nonprofit leaders, prepare local organizations to function effectively in a dynamic world, and build connections to create healthy, lasting change in communities. In response to their deepening knowledge of the disparities among children and youth in the City of Napa, On The move sought to develop a community-based model for educational equity. After reviewing data, meeting with local leaders and laying the groundwork for potential partnerships, On The Move proposed a vision for a comprehensive educational and community development initiative within a distinct Napa neighborhood. In the summer of 2007, OTM launched the McPherson Neighborhood Initiative with a mission
to provide opportunities for low-income children and youth to claim a future in which all possibilities are real and

More recently, On The Move has begun exploring how to put youth at the center of collecting and sharing stories of the McPherson neighborhood. Through partnerships with organizations including Active Voice, DeBug Magazine, and Napa Public Access Channel 27 – On The Move has initiated opportunities for youth to learn about the art of storytelling, while developing the technical skills of photography, film-making, and journalism. At nearly all events occurring in the neighborhood, youth are now seen behind a video camera or interviewing others, in order to share,listen to, and capture the powerful stories and positive change surrounding their lives.