It can feel like the world is falling apart at the seams. Rising sea levels threaten entire communities, and the 1% get richer while the rest of us struggle more and more just to get by. Donald Trump has all but sewn up a Presidential nomination, riding a wave of racism and anti-immigrant hatred. It seems like nothing can stop the world from collapsing around us. But there is another world rising up in the place of the old one. It’s this new world that the Center for Story-Based Strategy (CSS) helps others to imagine every day.
Earlier this month our CSS Imagination staff teamed up with our friends at the Interaction Institute for Social Change to do some Imagin-action work that we called #The4thBox. Our goal was to spark imagination and conversation with a blank box that anyone could fill in.
We received lots of awesome feedback and ideas in the form of comments on Facebook, Twitter, and by email. Now, we would really like people to put their imagination into action and participate in something we call, "Show, Don't Tell."
CSS has been involved in building the North America climate justice movement for a number of years, recently through our role as a founding member of the Climate Justice Alliance’s Our Power Campaign. In December of last year the world’s eyes were on the United Nation’s COP-21 Climate Talks in Paris where the countries of the world negotiated the first ever truly global climate treaty. Starting April 22 with an official signing ceremony at the United Nations HQ in New York, countries will have the next year to sign the treaty and agree to its (non-binding) provisions. But how effective is this agreement really? Will it establish a transition away from our fossil fuel dependence and help restablize the climate?
In January 2016, after nearly two years of community members raising health concerns about their tap water, the situation in Flint finally got some national public attention. There was the typical blast of media coverage: TV lights, headlines, journalists asking politicians a few tough questions… but inevitably the media cycle moves on while the day-to-day crisis still exists.
At the Center for Story-based Strategy our work is to help frontline communities use powerful storytelling to support their David versus Goliath style fights against Big Polluters and unaccountable government decision-makers. So we are all too familiar with this pattern of coverage that happens to communities on the frontlines of fights for racial, economic and environmental justice.
CSS’s work is rooted in the recognition that humans are narrative animals and thus we inevitably apply narrative elements to the information we get.
This means that savvy organizers need to use the elements of story to get our message out in a way that shifts the debate and builds power.