We gathered community leaders and a remarkable diversity of storytellers, to use the "collective story harvest" method as a way to practice listening across differences. Part of the 2018 Pittsburgh Inclusive Innovation Week. A blog post describing the workshop in more detail is here: http://www.fitassociates.com/blog/listening-to-difference
Listening to difference,
Hannah du Plessis and Marc Rettig
2 April 2018
Get a cup of coffee,
find a table,
and please make a name tag
We equip people with tools, methods
and practices that help them transform
Good gatherings, good facilitation,
We teach the fundamentals of
Do your best to return to the present
Be mindful to include all voices
Keep the story teller’s stories
As citizens of this experience, we ask you to
Thank you to
for sponsoring the
room and the breakfast
Tip o’ the hat to Jennifer Cloonan
“We’re on the same ship, but
we live on different decks”
Victor Lee Lewis
What would happen if you could strip
away all difference? At what point
will we show favoritism for the in-
group and bias towards the other?
Once our identity is tied to our group
membership, we tend to see other
groups as “lesser then”
“Oppression is the systematic and pervasive mistreatment
of individuals on the basis of their memberships in various
groups which are disadvantaged by the institutionalized
imbalances in social power in a particular society… It
includes the invalidation, denial, or the non-recognition of
the complete humanness (the goodness, uniqueness,
smartness, powerfulness, etc.) of those who are members
of the mistreated group.”
“It is possible to recover the buried memories of our
socialization, to share our stories and heal the hurts
imposed by the conditioning, to act in the present in
a humane and caring matter, to rebuild our human
connections and to change our world.”
Liberation is possible …
“If you have come here to help me, you are
wasting your time. But if you have come because
your liberation is bound up with mine, then let
us work together.”
Our liberation is tied together
The ideal: power to create is shared
“We know what is
best for us”
Approaches to power inequity within organizations
Adapted by AORTA from a handout from Leadership Development in Intergroup Relations/ Asian Americans Advancing Justice
Stages in adult development
This method is great way to help people move
Experience is much
We find that
The key idea,
why it matters,
where it comes from.
Same people, same space,
same conversation, same outcomes
The Office, NBC
Different people? Different space?
Closed ears & hearts: same outcomes.
We can’t mandate openness. We can’t
repeat our way to something new.
The Office, NBC
What conditions open conversations,
loosen the old story, afford new outcomes?
deciding, and control
and stuff in
The way we
What conditions create more openness, make room for open
conversations, loosen the old story, afford new outcomes?
We can learn to use our ingredients differently:
A global community of people is exploring this.
Just two of many examples:
How can we focus a group’s attention on
stories that matter, and get the most from them?
Collective Story Harvest provides…
An easy-to-facilitate method for group listening
A fast way for many people in an organization or community
to get meaningful exposure to “others“ (and each other)
A way to get from stories to “so what”
Let’s try it.
We’ll describe how it works.
Then we’ll introduce our topic question,
and four guest storytellers.
We’ll take 3 minutes to capture our assumptions
about the topic question,
then do the “Collective Story Harvest.”
(with a short break partway through)
When it’s over, we’ll reflect on the experience,
talk about its usefulness, and answer questions.
Here’s how it works… Short introduction
to our stories…
First stage: all together
Once upon a time,
Second stage: small groups
…with “listening lenses”
Four story groups will be going on at the same time.
The listening lenses
Key moments: decisions, conflicts,
learning, resisting, letting go, resolving,
persisting, giving up,….
Relationships: other people in the
story: their perceptions, actions, and
Inner experience: emotions, beliefs,
mood. Capture the inner ups and
downs of the story.
Environment: places, objects, systems,
interfaces, policies, infrastructure,….
• Please listen and take notes according to the
instructions on your listening lens worksheet.
• Hold questions until the end of the story.
Of course it’s okay to ask the teller to repeat
something you didn’t understand, or to explain an
unusual word. But let’s do our best to let the person
tell their story with minimal interruption.
• Give the gift of your full attention.
Catch yourself being distracted? No worries.
Just notice it, take a breath, and come back to
Let me clarify…
After the story, a chance to ask questions
After a break: lenses get together, with a job to do
Emotions…Emotions…Emotions…Emotions… Environment…Environment…Environment…Environment… Relationship…Relationship…Relationship…Relationship…
Finally we’ll all get together again.
What did we learn?
What are the things that help people feel
they truly belong in the city? What things
are in the way? What moves us toward the
feeling of true belonging?
Tell a story about a time when a service, a
system or design in the city of Pittsburgh
failed to meet your needs. It might have
worked for some, but not for you.
The story request
A note of importance about the way
we choose to make these spaces.
Trust is fragile.
When there is an imbalance of power…
Let’s meet our storytellers
Sit with your
Top three things you want
to report to the room
You have 15 minutes. Your job is to identify…
(If it helps, notice where your assumptions need
adjusting, or were just plain wrong.)
15 10 5 3 2 1
A “diagonal group”
Diverse vertically: levels of power
Diverse horizontally: many depts. and functions
Diagonal groups, gathering, and sequencing participatory efforts interest you?
You might like Marc Rettig’s three part series (diagonal groups are in part 2):
The key activity: Collective Story Harvest
Mean to animals, for decades
Collects animals, over-loves
City official who “gets the call”
The empathy map canvas:
Many ways to use this method
Gather people from across a system to harvest deeply from
many points of view.
Harvest your own organization’s stories for learning, team
building, group memory, informing strategy, etc.
Use story harvest between different parts of the same
organization that don’t really see or hear each other.
Harvest stories to inform a new effort or practice.
Periodic harvesting as part of a “developmental evaluation”
approach—use stories to help you ask, “Are we on the right
track? What adjustments should we make?”
What do you need to do this?
You’ve listened to the system, community, organization well
enough to inform an invitation that matters to the mix of
people you’d like to have in the room.
A little capacity to host a group of people, to make the
space for listening, to let go of control and let the
conversation do the work.
A sense of the stories and storytellers that will open the
conversation, challenge the long-repeated story, bring a
dose of real life to the gathering.
Be just a shade braver than a meeting planner.
Making this method your own
Curate the stories
Do your homework to bring in stories worth hearing. Use this to
hear voices from the fringes, to dig into challenging questions,
or to get compelling stories to be really heard by stakeholders.
Customize the lenses
Ask, “What do we most want to learn from these stories?” Then
create your lenses accordingly.
Trust the process
Don’t over-coach the story tellers. They just tell their story. The
listeners will catch what matters.
Don’t let the conversation flinch from the hard stuff
There may be challenging views or disconfirming data. Go there.
Hannah du Plessis