How do you help others tell their stories?
There’s an unspoken rule among ghostwriters and speechwriters: We never tell. We let the speakers speak for themselves. So it’s a rare opportunity when I can show my work and talk about what goes into helping others tell their stories.
When working in public interest communication, issue advocacy or social change communication, nothing is more powerful than centering stories around the voices of those most impacted by an issue. If someone is incarcerated, let them speak for themselves. If someone wants to share their journey as a transgender person, lift up their voice and stay out of the way, something I worked hard to do in my transgender story series at Eclectablog. If a person is struggling to make ends meet because they’re not earning a living wage, let them talk about their own lived experience.
I had the pleasure of collaborating on a project with the UN Refugee Agency’s (UNHCR) Innovation Service and the Center for Public Interest Communications at the University of Florida that put these principles into play. We worked as a team to help a refugee tell his story of the smart solution he created to address issues being faced by his fellow refugees in Uganda. We each had a role to play in helping this enterprising young man, Peter, share his experience and personal narrative in his own voice. The goal was not only to celebrate Peter’s accomplishments — which are well worth noting — but also to remind other refugees and displaced people that they have a vital role to play in re-shaping their lives. They have help, certainly, from UNHCR and other humanitarian organizations, but displaced people are empowered to take action on their own.
Because the Innovation Service is keen to experiment with storytelling and how it can be better applied to demonstrating the work not only of UNHCR but the refugees it works with, they interviewed all of us involved in the project. The end result was an article that shows what goes into helping someone shape their own personal narrative, in their own voice, and lifting up their own story for the world to hear.
As I said, ghostwriters never tell. But in this case, I didn’t. Someone else did it for me. I hope you’ll enjoy reading about our collaboration as much as I did being part of it.
[Photo credit: LAF Lines Photography]