The Story of Story

November 11, 2011 //

By Pia Infante

There were several key messages John shared from the Conversation with Van Jones hosted by NCG yesterday. One, lifted from a comparison of the 99% movement to the rise of the Tea Party, is that the 99% movement will only succeed if it seeks the best for the 100%, not by propelling another divisive “Us vs. Them” narrative.

Another is that the power of story to capture imagination, to educate, and to catalyze action continues to demonstrate time over time that data does not instigate change, and people’s stories do.

A compelling example of the power (and story) of Story is Annie Leanard’s work. Her piece called The Story of Stuff has gone viral with millions of viewers world wide.

Perhaps in some response to the Occupy movement, Annie has recently released The Story of Broke, a heart-breakingly hilarious and sobering piece that takes us step by step through a visual narrative about where our tax dollars do (and don’t) go. Incidentally, Annie participated in a dialogue with The New School at Commonweal’s Micheal Lerner, a grantee and friend of The Whitman Institute. The New School demonstrates often the ability of stories to stick with us through weekly podcasts and community gatherings around ecology, culture, and the inner life.

We highlight Annie and Micheal’s work here to emphasize the power of story, of inquiry, and how both learning and civic action can be engendered by the elegant and smart use of the ancient ritual of storytelling – particularly when paired with the nimbleness and instant sharing capabilities of modern technology.