by Andrea Carlstrom
and Lisa Martin
Marketing professionals have known for years that a good story can persuade people to buy products. But can we use storytelling for community good? The simple answer is yes.
Community storytelling can raise awareness about the issues faced by its members, build relationships and create deeper understanding and compassion for others living and working within a community.
It is not always easy to relate to those who may be different from us, and telling stories can provide information about people in an engaging way so that we can open ourselves up to listening and learning from one another. Stories that are meaningful can inspire us to act – to bring about change.
In 2019, Chaffee County Public Health and Chaffee Housing Authority worked together to create the We Are Chaffee Storytelling Initiative to help bring about a more equitable community where everyone has the opportunity to thrive. Yes, that is an ambitious goal, but because stories can counter existing beliefs by enhancing understanding, they can help communities radically imagine new ways of being, seeing and doing.
In addition to the popular We Are Chaffee video story projects that began in spring 2020, the initiative now includes powerful written short stories and the We Are Chaffee: Looking Upstream podcast highlighting human conversations with guests who share their incredible journeys with host Adam Williams. All of these stories and more can be found at www.wearechaffee.org.
We Are Chaffee continues to bring to life the art of storytelling by starting a new initiative – a year-long process of creating a documentary film that will reflect who we are as a community, share some of the tough challenges faced by those who live in Chaffee County, be a catalyst for dialogue and provide hope for the future.
The film development is being guided by a “Creative Committee” composed of a diverse group of 30 Chaffee County residents. The goal of the documentary is to increase community awareness of the realities that many people living and working within our community face daily. Only once we better understand our community’s inequities can we begin to work together to create positive change to the structure and systems that currently limit opportunities for everyone who calls Chaffee County home.
Imagine a future where all community members can live where they work, and where they are connected, understood and supported. A future where we all embrace the fact that, as humans, we have much more in common than we do differences. How can we begin to build that future together? We believe it starts with sharing our stories.
Andrea Carlstrom is director, Chaffee County Public Health, and Lisa Martin is community advocacy coordinator, We Are Chaffee, Chaffee County Public Health.