In Liverpool, an exhausted homeless shelter worker Afghanistan Email List puts her head in her hands at the end of another long day. The system she works in is failing the people it is supposed to serve, and she feels powerless to change it. In Qatar, a group of migrant workers toil under a blazing sun, building the new stadium for the World Cup. Soon they will return to a filthy, overcrowded labor camp for a few hours rest. Subjected to forced labor, they are dying in record Afghanistan Email List numbers. In Singapore, a group of scientists, policymakers, and NGOs try to understand how to build a resilient agricultural system. They struggle to agree on anything. Each of these bleak scenarios illustrates the role of story in changing a system. Stories make, prop up, and bring Afghanistan Email List down systems. Stories shape how we understand the world, our place in it, and our ability to change it. Humans have always used stories to make sense out of our chaotic world.
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When our ancestors had to kill animals they felt were kindred Afghanistan Email List spirits to survive, they created myths to help them come to terms with it. When they invented agriculture, they created myths that glorified graft and highlighted the seasonal nature of existence. When they began to settle, humans created myths imbuing cities with transcendence. As Yuval Noah Harari describes in his book Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind, story went on Afghanistan Email List to play a vital role in building all subsequent civilizations. Fast-forward to the volatile times we live in today, where people increasingly recognize that tackling problems like climate change, inequality, and health care requires a systems approach. The work of systems change involves Afghanistan Email List seeing systemically—looking at the elements, interconnections, and wider purposes of systems—and acting systemically. Story plays a vital role in helping us do both of these things.
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Story has many different qualities that make it useful for Afghanistan Email List the work of systems change. It’s a direct route to our emotions, and therefore important to decision-making. It creates meaning out of patterns. It coheres communities. It engenders empathy across difference. It enables the possible to feel probable in ways our rational minds can’t comprehend. When it comes to changing the values, mindsets, rules, and goals of a system, story is foundational. Afghanistan Email List All sectors can use these qualities of story and narrative to change systems. (Images by Irene Palacio) This article is a field guide to three qualities of story and narrative that all sectors can use to change systems: story as light, as glue, and as web. STORY AS LIGHT Story helps illuminate the past, present, and future, thus lighting up the paths of change. Specifically, it: Highlights the Afghanistan Email List fault lines in a system and makes visceral cases for change.