The very first international activity with the Future Narratives participants was happening! Some of us arrived a day earlier, others arrived just on time for our get-to-know and name game activities. We could see from the beginning that there was something special with the group, with the people and their stories.
During the next days of the training, we learned more things about each other and how storytelling can be a useful asset to change ourselves and others around us. We spoke about stronger leadership among young people and how others’ negative perceptions should not define and shape our lives. We need to persuade ourselves that we are the stories we tell to ourselves and not the stories other people say about us.
Everything around us plays an important role in how we feel and how we choose to live. We need to look for positive things and people in life, connect with them and cherish them. Family and community bonding, such as being part of a local informal sports team, can help us progress and succeed in ways beyond what mainstream societies understand and look for.
Connecting through stories
To start knowing a bit more about each other, the group was divided into pairs. Each person had to share their life story with the other and when we moved back to the plenary, each person presented the other person in an attempt to bond and practise active listening skills at the same time. Some participants seem to be more comfortable listening to other stories rather than talking about themselves. For sure, you get new perspectives when you share other people’s stories but, also, when you listen to other people telling your own stories. You can appreciate what you have, see how your story is understood and presented by others, you can practice empathy, become more connected and build new relationships.
Then, the next step was to go out of the seminar room, spend some time together while walking and talking about everyday life. The goal was to identify differences between the participants that come from different realities and carry different life stories. The interesting part was that although there were remarkable differences among the participants, the common aspects of their lives related to their needs, dreams and aspirations emerged. The activity was a good way to explore community and country characteristics regarding politics, education, economy, ecology, human rights and culture, as well as, bring into the discussion the things that matter to the group and the values of the participants that hold dear, such as education and justice.
To close this session, the group participated in a very well known activity, the “take a step forward” activity that included a series of statements on socioeconomic and cultural aspects that were connected to the realities of the participants. After a few statements and rounds, it was obvious that different experiences and life circumstances might keep some people “behind” other people. However, it is important to keep from this activity that those who seem to stay behind, does not mean that they cannot “run faster” and, eventually, reach the others. But most importantly, life is not a competition. It is not about counting achievements or positioning ourselves in relation to others.
Life is about being who you like to be, no matter what other people are doing or saying. It is a matter of understanding where we are and where we want to be, believing that it is possible regardless of the circumstances and past experiences. We can learn from the past and move forward without allowing the past and what other people say about us to define our potentials and, at the end of the day, what we will become.
The timeline of biographies
In another session, we built a timeline of biographies that aimed to include the most important points and events of our lives. Starting from 1990 to 2021, participants noted down 8 things that have happened to them and have affected their lives. You could see similarities and differences in their life paths but also, see how some specific events such as economic crises, wars or the very recent pandemic crisis have affected their lives. In this sense, it was a good activity for research purposes and descriptive statistics. What we observed was that participants listed common types of life events such as travelling experiences, education, work and particular friends and family events. A lot of things were going on in the participants’ life during the period 2018-2021. But another thing we got from this exercise was the realisation and visualisation of how different life paths of different people can be connected without even having met each other before we travelled to Spain for that week.
Then, we wanted to give them space to express themselves more and share stories that otherwise they wouldn’t share. So, we played the “I’ll tell a story about…” game and invited participants to choose a title from a pile of papers that has a specific theme of a story they wanted to share. As energetic music was playing in the background, participants were welcomed to clap their hands to ask us to stop the music and share their stories in front of the group. We did this for a few rounds of stories and then we let participants write down their stories and put them in the timeline. This part of the activity allowed them to share things about themselves that they might have never thought about or forgotten. It also inspired them to write a story using storytelling techniques.
An online workshop by Alim Kamara
Alim Kamara is a British-Sierra Leonean rapper and storyteller. As a child living in Sierra Leone, Alim would listen to Djelis (storytellers), admiring the way they weaved lessons through their tales. Stories quickly became central to his life, and when he moved to London and started his music career, he used this same technique to achieve number one singles in both Sierra Leone and Nigeria. He established the Storie Storie organisation to share the traditional Sierra-Leonean folk tales of his childhood in the UK. Through the organisation, he performs and runs workshops through schools, businesses and festivals. Alim and his inspirational speakers share cultural and life stories that demonstrate success, disappointments, persistence and hard work. They share the tools that empower listeners to feel happy, express themselves and succeed.
Alim offered an online workshop to the group. His attitude, energy and spirit really entertained us! He presented how powerful storytelling can be if we use our body and voice when we tell a story. According to Alim, storytelling improves focus and attention. It improves creativity and builds better communication skills. Storytelling also creates bonding. We can tell a story and we can be very still and the words that come out of our mouths can be powerful. And we can tell a story while changing our voice and using our body parts in ways to help the audience become part of this story, taking the scene of the story and the emotions to the audience. This can also be powerful and effective to communicate and make a message understood, especially when the words cannot capture the full story.
Alim gave us tips on how to become better storytellers and connect with an audience. He showed these to us by simply performing them. He told us to face our fears and stop thinking about what other people might think or say about us. He told us to challenge ourselves, to dare even if we are not perfect. Perfection comes after practice. Finally, he told us to be authentic when sharing a story, to be present and try to feel the audience. These were only a few things of what we talked about during this inspiring and energetic webinar.
Outdoor activity in Seville
During one afternoon of our training, the group joined a challenging activity in the city of Seville. They had to go and collect stories from the locals, understand the history of the city, their everyday lives and dreams about the future. Initially, they had to just observe and make assumptions of what people in the city were doing and thinking. Then, they had to challenge themselves a bit more and go to interview some of them. It was nice to go around historical places as a group, observing the people, their environment, their reactions and collecting their stories. Some of them might have been imaginary stories and some others might have been real-life stories.
An online workshop by Chene Swart
Chené has been translating Narrative Therapy ideas and practices with organisations, communities and individuals from various cultures and contexts for nearly 20 years. She is committed to participating in and contributing to conversations and actions that re-author our world towards the common good, one narrative at a time!
Chené started her session with powerful questions to show us how powerful stories can be. Stories live in relationships. We are in a relationship with nature, to one another, to our histories, and to all the things that matter to us. By exploring the answers to such questions, we identify stories that give us clues about who we are and what we really care about. These questions make it easy to find ourselves in relation to other things, elements and people but also use our imagination and express ourselves easier. Another great thing about these questions is that you can have the same conversation with the same people the next day and find other things to say!
Chené also introduced to us the two important capacities we have as humans. The first is that we give meaning to things, even to single words, and this meaning can change in a moment. The second is our capacity to connect the dots of our lives and make a story. Starting from one word, we can go back to our memories and share a story about a particular life experience. In this sense, all our life experiences show us how we see the world and who we are. If we can make meaning and we can take our life experiences and put them in line as we did in the timeline activity, we will see that we are many different stories. In fact, we make assumptions about who we are and who other people might be when we listen to their stories. The important question is, “which stories do we want to keep and grow?”. By answering this question, we can build alternative narratives for ourselves and the world we are living in. According to Chené, we need to be the authors of our own stories and at the same time, give space to other people to be the authors of their own stories by respecting them.
The multiplier event took place at the University of Seville and the Department of Education. It hosted a series of interesting presentations and talks about the Future Narratives project and included as an installation the timeline of biographies that was developed by the participants. During the previous days, participants were also asked to create future stories based on the expert’s inputs but also modify, if they wish, stories they have already contributed to the timeline. Some of the participants were brave enough to “go on stage” to perform and present their stories.
The last day was the evaluation day of the programme. Last evening together, after the multiplier event, was one of the best moments of the training course. The group was feeling more relaxed and comfortable sharing more stories and experiences in a more informal setting. Friendships had already been developed since the beginning of the training course but the activities helped the group to know each other, even know themselves better by providing space for personal reflection and opening up to people that have never met before. It was a very pleasant experience!
Goodbyes are not easy. But this time we know that it was just the beginning of this journey together. Stay tuned for the next Future Narratives activities and join our community using the Future Narratives digital platform!
Epilogue: What happened back in Athens
During the open event “Designing the Future of Europe” we invited participants from our initiatives to share the outcomes of their work and exchange views with representatives from academia, policymakers, representatives of youth organisations and other young people about their ideal present and future. The participants presented activities they organised to raise awareness on EU youth opportunities and to support youth participation and engagement with the EU institutions. They also presented community participation activities and their benefits to mental health. The event included presentations by Kalliopi Dalla, Eurodesk National Coordinator in Greece of the Youth and Lifelong Learning Foundation, by Spyros Blavoukos, Associate Professor at Athens University of Economics and Business and Head of the Arianne Condellis Programme in ELIAMEP, by Alexandros Karydes, Administrator, DG Presidency, Secretariat of the EP delegation to the Conference on the Future of Europe and by the co-coordinator of EU Youth Hub, Savvas Papadopoulos. Finally, the outcomes of the series of educational activities that supported the consultation process on the Conference on the Future of Europe were presented by our relevant working group in the form of a story.
To learn more about the Future Narratives project, contact Amerissa Giannouli.