As I finish my first week as a Community Planner with Santa Fe County, I realize more than ever that narrative matters. What do I mean by narrative? I mean the stories that we tell and how we choose to craft them. All week, I have been reading up on old planning documents, getting up to speed on the projects I’ll be working on, but more than anything, I’ve been listening to my new coworkers. Going out to coffee, taking breaks in the front of the office, everyone has stories to tell. I’ve learned about people’s family and background and I’ve learned about the County functions.
Everyone likes stories, they are the best way to convey information. Isn’t it more interesting to listen to an anecdote about a person’s experience than to read a technical document. But by telling stories, we are also using a powerful tool to frame the way things are viewed.
I stayed up too late watching the Democratic National Convention and Hillary Clinton’s historic acceptance speech last night. While watching the video about her youth and her background, I was acutely aware of how many people must have worked to finely craft her narrative. Critics have argued that we don’t know the soft side of Hillary and so the film about her was all the warm and cuddly parts about her mother being abandoned and motivating Hillary to take care of the kids in this country. I think it worked. There was a clear story about where she came from, where the motivation of her mother’s background took her, and how that has carried through to this day.
Last Friday I talked to a group of AmeriCorps volunteers who have been working for the greater good this past year. They have been public servants (just like Hillary, I guess) and they are all motivated by individual reasons to make the world a better place. Their graduating gift was my book, Funded!, which will give them the tools to pursue their passions (while also financially supporting themselves). After each person introduced themselves, their histories, and their interests, I told them that my favorite part about hearing from them is that each of them has a unique story. Getting funding is all about crafting the narrative that describes you as the perfect person to do the work you want to do. Across government work, political work, and personal projects, listening to stories and more importantly, crafting a powerful story, can be the best tool in your tool belt.