Our favourite stories in 2022 and how our practice of story is evolving

At Digital Storytellers, we are privileged to work with some truly remarkable organisations, movements and projects, and support them with all things impact storytelling. As we approach the year’s end, and nearly a decade since we started, we wanted to carry on one of our favourite traditions by sharing some of our favourite impact stories of 2022, but this year with a twist — as we reflect on how our practice of story continues to evolve to meet the challenges of our time.

Gulf of Carpentaria Elder Stories

In the remote and wildly beautiful Gulf of Carpentaria in Far North Queensland, extraordinary stories of isolation, resilience and community spirit are held in the hearts of its Elders, both Indigneous and non-Indigenous. This film explores some of these stories — of the pain and joy of life in the bush.

“This year, we returned to this magical place to listen and create a record of these stories as part of a mental health initiative for the region. The power of story listening and its healing abilities for past hurt were given time and space in this compassionate and progressive project. These stories haven’t been released yet, but keep your eyes peeled for them in early 2023! And seeing these principles of story listening brought to life in a new ‘Leading through Story’ offering has been wonderful.” — Julia Lörsch, Executive Producer

This was also a favourite story for long-time Digital Storytellers Editor, Myrthe Reijnders, who shared:

“As an editor, you’re always trying to balance voices and truths. I feel in this particular story that some soundbites and opinions actually contradict each other, but that is in fact very much the reality of life. Even though I felt challenged to make room for all of those truths, it felt important to do that.”

Climate Storytellers at COP27

Again this year, Digital Storytellers was proud to co-present the Climate Storytellers session to the Paris Committee for Capacity Building (PCCB) members network at COP27 Capacity Building Hub, in partnership with CliMates, Climate KIC, Yiqqi. 

“My favourite story this year was Jack Collard sharing his story at COP27 as part of the Climate Storytellers panel. Among all the talks, presentations and high-level negotiations at COP27, Jack’s talk cut through to remind us all how Indigenous perspectives are key to remembering and re-establishing humanity’s relationship with ourselves and with nature.” — Pete Dowson, Story Architect and Engineer 

When it comes to the dialogue on climate change, there are certainly a lot of loud voices — from politicians, to scientists, celebrities and lobbyists. However, often what’s missing are the voices of the humans (and animals!) that this issue impacts most directly. In yet another opportunity to reflect on how community-led digital storytelling gives us the opportunity to amplify voices that are not always heard, Pete shares:

“This year, I was caught off-guard when someone whose opinion I value greatly shared that they found my storycraft overly clinical and impersonal. I realised that as a ‘big-picture thinker’, I often use storytelling devices that lend themselves to telling stories with too much headspace and not enough heartspace. So, the biggest lesson I’ve learned this year is that: storytelling is way more effective when we soften our approach and drop more deeply into the human stories of remembering, being, dreaming, and becoming.” 

Putting this learning straight into practice, we have created a new Story Mapping tool to help deepen your storycraft. Try it out and let us know how you go!

Love Stories for Business

Our resident Business Steward, Zara Choy, has been central to the evolving narrative of success in business, both within and outside of Digital Storytellers. And her sharply tuned ears pricked up when she started hearing the word ‘love’ entering the business lexicon thanks to The Cause Effect and TEDxSyd panel conversation: ‘What is the role of love in regeneration?’, among others

Committed to the evolution of our impact storytelling offerings to meet the imperative of our times, Zara spearheaded a new program between Digital Storytellers and The Cause Effect called ‘Love Stories for Business,’ activating purpose through the power of story. 

“We saw the first time the word ‘love’ has entered the business arena, and there is a rising need for humanity in business — for workplaces to go beyond being places that people go to earn a salary, and towards places that provide meaningful work, support healing and wholing, and spaces of joy and community. For business to have a higher purpose — to produce holistic value for all stakeholders, including people, communities and planet, not just financial value for shareholders — it has to involve love. And we as business leaders must play an active role as stewards of a better future for all.”

Giving us all a Reason to be hopeful

Set against the beautiful backdrop of Lake Jindabyne, our Stories for Impact Lead and Facilitator, Natasha Akib, ran a storytelling workshop with government personalisation specialists Reason Group. The story experience was designed, not just to build storytelling skills, but to strengthen Reason Group’s bond as a team. 

The process began by inviting the team to draw from their own personal experiences and identify any story ‘seeds’, before guiding them to develop these story ‘seeds’ into narratives to share with the group as part of a facilitated Story Circle. Natasha shared:

“We were thrilled to see the Reason Group team dive into the experience with enthusiasm and open hearts. They shared experiences of loss, hardship and humour. There was lots of laughing and plenty of tears! I loved tapping back into ‘story’ in the truest sense of the word and reminding myself how powerful it is when people go beyond just sharing ideas or thoughts to sharing personal experiences.” 

To have the opportunity to design and deliver a workshop that created space for people to explore and express their life experiences, and to see their teammates’ respond with such open hearts, was extra magical and yet another reminder of the power of story to navigate the world

This year provided another great reminder for Tash, and the team, that the most powerful stories are rarely those that convey just high level ideas, but instead those where people authentically share the arc of their personal experiences and tap into vivid emotional and sensory details:

“Tapping back into the ‘once upon a time…’ style of story, whether true or fictional, can really help to set up a narrative journey or story arc. I think that with all of the noise on social media, we often get caught up trying to convey soundbites and pithy arguments in our stories. However, all of the wonderful magic of storytelling neuroscience only happens when we tell stories that have an arc; that share the journey of an individual or group of people and transport us into another world.” — Natasha Akib, Stories for Impact Lead and Facilitator   

Healing country and climate 

Seed is Australia’s first Indigenous Youth Climate Network and a grassroots movement of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander young people across the country who take action on the causes and consequences of climate change. Hosted virtually over three days, Seed’s Heal Country Summit gathered Indigenous youth to explore their relationships to the climate, to the land, and to healing Country. Throughout the summit, we heard heartfelt stories about what ‘land back’ would mean for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander young people and their plans to protect Country, culture and their future. 

“As a live scribe, I’m always looking for new ways to visually express and reflect a conversation and gathering, and I love any chance to scribe with young people, especially groups like Seed. Their wisdom, enthusiasm and inspiration is so generative and I find myself constantly amazed by their creativity. And these sessions always invite a playfulness that transcends the formality of a meeting or conference.” — Devon Bunce, Scribe Artist & Graphic Facilitator 

The future of storytelling

Like many other organisations, the ongoing impacts of the pandemic has shifted much of our storytelling work online. How has that been for one of our Resident Scribe Artists & Graphic Facilitators, Devon?

“These years have seen my practice deepening into what has been possible virtually, both over Zoom, as well as what is possible with an in-person digital live scribe. I’ve fallen in love with the digital illustration process — it has revealed itself to have so much to offer. I can record the process of my illustration and play the whole thing back, seamlessly creating new formats with endless colour and effects options. The potential feels endless!”

It is heartening to see that organisations — regardless of their size, sector or the nature of their work — are beginning to understand that story is the key to unlocking greater sustainability, scale and fulfilment. And like the nine years that have gone before it, we are proud to be able to offer an ever-expanding list of ways to weave more story into your work and help you better measure your impact, engage your community and navigate these uncertain times.

Now is the time to start dreaming up the story you want to tell in 2023. If you need support to find, shape and share your story, get in touch to see what’s possible. And to each and every one in our community who trusted us to help tell their stories in 2022, a most sincere thank you.