One of the main roles of our Closeness sessions is to enable two groups to hear each other’s stories – in our case often companies and their customers. Stories are powerful. Storytelling is not simply narrative. It is an opportunity to communicate emotions, values, desires and fears in a way that is resonant and memorable, allowing the listener to position themselves in the story, see its relevance, and then play forward a narrative about their possible role in the story.
We see its power every day and I was heartened to read that many councils are also using a version of Closeness to improve their decision-making. One example is the Birmingham Poverty Truth Commission. The Commission believe that to really address poverty in Birmingham the real voices of people who have experience of living at the sharp end of poverty, in all sorts of different ways, need not only to be heard but to be involved in decisions about poverty.
They firstly bring together people with stories to tell, help them craft their stories and then facilitate listening sessions with people of influence. The ambition is that an understanding of what life is like for those in poverty will drive better policy decisions.
And it already seems to be having results on their Facebook page. After the launch event one person said it was "Inspiring and devastating at the same time. I will be thinking carefully about the power I have and how I use it" and when one of the ‘testifiers’ was interviewed on Radio 4 she said she felt heard for the first time and felt that many of the changes they had discussed (many of which were small and easy to implement) would make an incredible difference to herself and others in poverty.
It’s great to hear about this happening elsewhere as, we too, in our work witness every day the power of well-told personal stories to create the environment for meaningful change.