In a recently published article from The New York Times, Amanda Gorman – the youngest inaugural poet in U.S. history, as well as an award-winning writer and cum laude graduate of Harvard University – remarks that “We tell stories because we are human. But we are also made more human because we tell stories. When we do this, we tap into an ancient power that makes us, and the world, more of who we are: a single race looking for reasons, searching for purpose, seeking to find ourselves.”
“We tell stories because we are human. But we are also made more human because we tell stories” – Amanda Gorman
In fact, humans are instinctual storytellers and story listeners. Since the dawn of time, long before written language, stories were (and in many ways still are) the vehicle of transmitting knowledge down from one generation to the next. It comes as no surprise that, from a very young age, children experience the power of stories which they find not only entertaining, but also useful to provide meaning to the world they are discovering, society’s unspoken rules and expectations, and even their own existence.
Today, business and leadership development schools recognize that telling stories is one of the most powerful tools that leaders can employ to influence, teach, and inspire. Beyond creating a sense of connection, storytelling establishes familiarity and trust, and allows the listener to enter the narrative and become more open to learning. Good stories are also very effective at conveying complex ideas and multiple meanings in simple and graspable ways that are much more engaging than a dry recitation of data points or abstract ideas. (1)
Within this larger context, getSFcba’s Digital Storytelling Project puts to use the power of storytelling to inform and educate providers and public health professionals in the HIV/STI field on the lived experiences and Social Determinants of Health (SDoH) of some of the most marginalized communities impacted by HIV. As part of the Capacity Building and Technical Assistance activities that getSFcba provides to Health Departments and Community-Based Organizations (CBOs), the stories told help to create opportunities to foster dialogue between healthcare providers and community members with the end goal to improve HIV/STI prevention, care, and access.
What is particularly unique about getSFcba’s Digital Storytelling Project is the highly participatory workshop format it employs, developed in partnership with StoryCenter, in contrast with more traditional passive approaches of employing a crew and camera. The workshop merely creates the container in which participants are guided but have complete agency over telling their stories and creating their videos – starting with choosing their story’s focus, writing their script, and recording with their own voice, to selecting all the pieces from pictures, videos and music, all the way through assembling and editing. The resulting product is therefore one that each participant completely owns, all while acquiring a replicable skill set. This is a very empowering experience, especially for people from communities whose stories are often either overlooked or told for them by others.
Here are those stories:
(1) Boris, V. (2023, January 9). What Makes Storytelling So Effective For Learning? Harvard Business Publishing. https://www.harvardbusiness.org/what-makes-storytelling-so-effective-for-learning/