December 2, 2009

Remembering through Story

I recently participated in a storytelling workshop presented by Narativ, and gained insight into how story can actually be an embodiment of a person, in the sense that it can presence them in a community.

Participants were directed to tell a 3-minute story as if we were one of our grandparents. All 13 participants shared a pivotal moment, told in the voice of one of their grandparents, as well as a brief biography of that relative's life. At the end of the storytelling, it felt as if 13 additional chairs had been added to our circle, as if each of the grandparents who had "spoken" were now sitting amongst us.

Murray Nossel, the Director of Narativ, introduced the anthropological concept of "re-membering" (also used in narrative therapy) and offered this summary: "When people die, they are no longer members of our community, and we must re-member them by telling their stories."

This exercise got me thinking about why it is so critical that organizations share the stories of their founders.

I have the tremendous pleasure of working with Enterprise Community Partners, for whom Jim Rouse, their extraordinary founder, is very much a felt presence. I get the feeling that most decisions at Enterprise are made with Jim at the table, so to speak; he is often quoted, and many staff and board members continue to share personal and professional stories about him.

And I was reminded of a story David Beckwith, of The Needmor Fund, shared with me about their founder, Virginia Secor Stranahan.
Very much focused on the family legacy of community stewardship, their board now contains family members who once played under the very table at which they currently meet. The Needmor Fund not only shares stories about the organization's history at every meeting, they even have an effigy of Virginia Secor Stranahan seated at the table!

Start now, when your founders are alive, so that their values and motivations live on to forever spark understanding and innovation within your organization. A great example of a young organization sharing the story of their founding can be found here, from Mercy Corps.

And certainly remember friends, family, mentors, and other people who have touched your life. Re-member their way back around your proverbial campfire.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for posting about Enterprise's terrific founder, Jim Rouse! We're so proud to have had his leadership for so many years. And, as you've said, his legacy remains at the heart of our work.



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