Are you sitting comfortably? Then I’ll begin

Several weeks ago on a beautiful July night in London, 6heads hosted an evening of story telling. Attended by over 25 sustainability professionals and enthusiasts, the event explored – through best-practice sharing, games and group participation – the art of bringing sustainability to life through good story telling.

Hosted by 6head Nicola Millson, we welcomed guest speaker and professional Story Teller Kate Hammer, 6heads speaker James Payne, plus several other contributors who shared their thoughts, expertise and stories with the wider group.

Kate Hammer, took us through an enlightening story structure framework that can be used not only to better our communications, but also to test and pitch new products, services, or programs. The framework asks us to consider the following six key elements:
1. The Hero – Who is our customer or target recipient?
2. The Offer – What does our product, program, service or communication do for the hero?
3. The Benefit – What is the value that the hero gets from interacting with our offer?
4. The world – What is the world in which our hero exists? What is it like before the offer? And how will it be different after the offer?
5. The new normal – What change will occur in the world as a result of the value given by the offer?
6. Who we are in that world? – What is the identity of our organisation?
This was an insightful process, particularly when exploring the perceived importance of each element and the mutual dependencies that exist between them. For more information, please have a look at: @kilnco.

James Payne from 6heads sparked our interest with a fascinating talk on the links between neuroscience and more effective sustainability story telling. He first described three common neuro-chemically created human behaviors and their associated motivations:
• Firstly, balance creating behaviour – motivated by tradition, belonging, safety, trust and collaboration.
• Secondly, seeking behaviour – motivated by curiosity, play, creativity, risk-taking and individuality
• And finally, assertiveness – motivated by courage, victory, achievement, status and toughness.
James then pointed out that in traditional sustainability storytelling, the emphasis is always on balance creating behaviour, with stories of collaboration, nurturing, protection and selflessness commonplace. Leading on from this he suggested that if we are to appeal to the those who exert ‘assertiveness’ or ‘seeking’ human behaviours, especially when communicating to the corporate world, so dominated by assertiveness; then, we should look to also tell stories rooted in survival, exploration, break-throughs, boundary-pushing and success.

During the evening I shared a book with the group called ‘Unforgettable, Images of the Century’, This book was introduced to me many years ago by a design colleague and although I’d seen it only once, it had stayed in my mind ever since. For me it reinforces the power of imagery in story telling. From the title of the book you would expect to find inside page after page of beautiful glossy photographs. However, when opened, the book in fact reveals 100 pages completely blank bar a tiny line of copy – the title of each image. You see the title is all that is really needed. The images are so etched in our psyches that the reader does not need to see them. The title evokes the image and with it the unforgettable story. As the Author Peter Davenport says, these collectively held images are our visual dictionary of emotions: “joy, sorrow, hate, humour, surprise and wonder”.

Here are a few titles from the book. Can you see the images and relive the stories in your mind?
• VY Day Kiss in Times Square, 1945
• Lennon and Ono, Amsterdam in Bed, 1969
• Burning Monk – The Self-Immolation, 1963
• Napalm Girl Phan Thi Kim Phuc, 1972
• The Falling Man, September 11th 2001

The idea of a universally held image anchored in important human stories is a fascinating one, especially when applied to sustainability. To date, far too many of our universal sustainability images depict despair, threat or degradation. Perhaps it is time we created a new collective image to trigger a shared story of a positive social and environmental future for which we can all strive. Alfonso Montuori says in his 2011 paper Beyond postnormal times: The future of creativity and the creativity of the future’, that now is the first time in history we can not imagine a better future for the next generation than the one we have today. And without a positive image of our futures to aim for, how can we hope to evoke positive behaviour changes?

Continuing the theme of telling stories through visuals, Eileen Donnelly shared a number of posters created by Do the Green Thing to support sustainable behaviour.  Inspiring:

A wonderful evening of insights and connections.  We run various events that you’re welcome to attend – best subscribe to our blog by clicking on the link on the right. Hope to see you at the next one!


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