Playing with roles

Written by Laura Cuthbert, InWithForward Team Member & Hacktivities Coach

I wish I could say that we fit into prototyping with fluid grace; however, I often find myself slamming jigsaw puzzles together and praying we’ll find all of the pieces in the box. So really, it’s hard to know how we all fit together.

Hacktivities is in the midst of building a role, we need a person who can collect, share, and design stories. An expert storyteller? Maybe. Someone with tact and grace? Definitely. Someone already working in the sector? Who knows.

IMG_2871We only have four weeks left, so we have to decide quickly what we need most. But full disclosure, we’ve had some pretty hard learning. Keep reading more:

Invest in a good listener: When staff are uncomfortable with the person who is listening to the story, the listener receives scripted stories. Stories that share practice, but use agency jargon, and the storyteller doesn’t invest any of their emotion in the story. You don’t learn anything new, no hacks, no actual help. And everyone leaves knowing that it was a waste of time.

Time: Nobody believes that they have any time, people work multiple jobs, and seemingly lose ability to feel present at work. We want storytelling to be a way to regain presence.

Honour stories: Plain and simple, staff aren’t always feeling great about their days. It’s hard, some days are good, but when things go poorly, this sector allows for things to go really poorly. It’s hard to manage so many variables…especially when they affect someone’s life! We believe that listening, and returning a new shareable form of any time of story, big or small, is deserved.

Making power: Bitching sessions are a slippery slope, and sometimes we’re walking on wet cliffs while wearing bowling shoes. As great as it is to let people share their frustrations, their grievances—we seem to then lose all opportunity to make their actions powerful. Empowered and great stories are a lot harder to frame and share after someone tells you what makes them feel powerless and awful. Especially when we have empathy for those emotions.

Those were the days: The distant past is a tool to talk about more recent stories. It’s great that the sector did all these cool things in the 80s and 90s, those sure were the days, right guys? Reminding people of good times is such a nice lead in to what is happening now, the listener can be an awesome way to prompt staff to think deeply about what they are doing day to day.

Hitting home: Starting with people’s personal stories, from their homes, their friends, is a great way for them to just start talking. Also, it’s the fastest way for them to get something from us. Who wants to share or even think about work stories if they get nothing, and also don’t trust us.

The Hardest part: When we’re designing roles, we’re not designing them for ourselves; it’s no coincidence that I like story telling parties and we’re thinking of hosting a story telling party. And it’s okay to bring personal experiences in, pitch ideas—but it’s dangerous too. Nothing can be assumed, and it’s up to Hacktivities to create something replicable. No Laura, no Wendy, no Dean. We can put ourselves into everything in the prototype,make something that appears to work perfectly, but if the second we leave the next people can’t take do what we did, then we never really had anything at all.

So, knowing that fluid grace isn’t always an option, for the next few weeks we’re going to continue looking for the corners of this jigsaw puzzle. But more importantly, we’re learning to let people know where we bought it. Just in case they’re missing any pieces.

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