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Why do we tell stories?


25 June 2019


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Professor Marshall Ganz connecting from Boston, USA.

Pacific youth and young people at the MYSTORY Summit had the opportunity to listen to Professor Marshall Ganz, a Senior Lecturer in Leadership, Organising, and Civil Society at the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University, speaking about the power of stories via Skype from his hometown in Boston.

Professor Marshall proudly wore the MYSTORY t-shirt, and firstly congratulated the youth and young people for the work done to date on the MYSTORY framework and the work they will be doing following the Summit.

He started his talk about the domains of leadership and how a leader should pay attention to the resources and surrounding circumstances to respond to challenges.

“Leadership is about accepting responsibilities and rallying others to work in certain ways under the conditions of uncertainty.”

“Leadership is about doing great things without an expectation of a designation or a title. It’s about bringing people together and building a constituency to stand together.”

Professor Marshall shared his story and experiences with civil rights movements and racism.

“What I’ve learned about leadership is about utilising the resources through collective actions to effect change we need. It’s all about the community of power.”

Leadership relates to storytelling.

Professor Marshall says storytelling is how we shape our individual voice into a collective single voice to shape change. “Narrative speaks the language of emotion. It teaches us how we value the world. How we learn to construct threats for what we fear is simply turning reaction into responses.”

“Each of us has our own reservoir of stories. When we are confronted with challenges, we recall our prior knowledge experiences.”

Professor Marshall is passionate in supporting youth and everyone to develop their leadership abilities to go out into the world to create change. “Sometimes you have to go back in order to go forward.”

The Summit participants responded well to Professor Marshall’s presentation with questions about how we see Pacific communities live within their own stories.

Professor Marshall’s dialogue ended with a message to Pacific youth and young people that they have the power to shape what the future looks like.

In 2010 SouthSeas Healthcare CEO Silao Vaisola-Sefo participated in a course on community leadership practice through Counties Manukau District Health Board where Professor Marshall Ganz talked about the power of stories.

“The concept of personal narrative was developed by Professor Marshall Ganz, and it was there that the building blocks of the MYSTORY framework began.”

Last year Silao went to the US and meet with Professor Marshall Ganz and Peter Senge from Massachusetts Institute of Technology. “I spoke to them about the MYSTORY initiative and both of them have followed the MYSTORY journey to date.”

MYSTORY is a platform for anyone to reach out and be more open by telling and hearing stories. Be prepared to listen with the intention to understand and not listening to prepare a response. The MYSTORY framework could also be used to mobilise the community to solve problems and could be a really valuable reflection tool.

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