Share the Right Story

If I had to choose an alternate title for this post, it would be: Back to The Future. I even have the soundtrack of the classic 80s movie going on in my mind right now!

And then I understood why. Because in “Share the Right Story” – training course co-funded by the European programme Erasmus+ – we managed to explore the past, present and (a bit of) the future of storytelling. For me, it was also going back to a place that I love, and I have visited for the third summer in a row, always with special feelings.

So, before we go on: why the name? What is the “Right Story”? The idea comes from the fact that social media changed the way we communicate so much, that ideas and opinions travel faster than ever. Also bad, or dangerous ideas. That’s why it’s more important than ever to focus on which messages to send, and how to communicate them. 

So was born the idea for this course. Comes in after the tradition of projects like “Share your Story” (Italy, January 2015) and “Get Storied” (Italy, August 2015) which focused on using storytelling and exploring its potential as a learning tool, but this time we wanted to give a stronger focus on its social aspects, on the responsibility that storytellers have in shaping the world we live in, and on the power of the Dark Side.

And? And we nailed it! It was a hell of a ride, and man-oh-man, we had so much fun while doing it.

At the end, we felt completely exhausted, exhilarated, drained. But at the same time, very, very satisfied.

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Here is a short account of impressions and stories. It’s always very hard to recall the details of such a powerful and rich experience. After just a few days, many fade away like fragments of a dream. This reminds me why I decided to keep a blog in the first place: memories vanish quickly. Memories like:

  • People. The group of participants was a-ma-zing.

We received more than 200 applications for this course, and making the selection was not an easy job, but apparently  we must have done something right, because everybody was just great. We had a great mix of profiles, backgrounds, experiences and diagnosed lunatics interesting personalities, all of which really contributed to creating a unique adventure. Apologies for all those who were not there (and I even know some): there will be more opportunities in the future.

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You know you like to work with a particular group, when you take a selfie in the middle of a session, on the first programme day, and everybody wants to be in, hands down. Cool.

The course lasted a full week, which gave us the opportunity to really get to know each other, and to get on a personal level which is not always possible. I have a warm and cozy feeling when I re-think about our time together. And it doesn’t always-always happen, to be honest.

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We were able to include activities led by participants, who could share their unique skills and qualifications to make our programme richer and more interesting. And I am sorry we didn’t leave even more space – but as I will describe later, some hard choices had to be made.

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It was very rewarding, to witness how the group unfolded every day. As always when working with these topics, the personal element of the experience is very, very important. As we were progressing through the days, participants were awarding themselves (and each other) “badges” to signify their progress.

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Some distinguished for creativity and brought an extra personal touch.

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  • The programme. As in previous programmes based on this concept, we explored Storytelling and its potential as a learning and personal development experience.

It wasn’t easy to put together the programme in the first place,

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since there were simply too many elements we wanted to include, and it was really hard to make choices. We wanted of course to base the experience on the group, and to include as much as possible their experiences and competences. Which made it even harder: a full week of training seemed awfully short!

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We wanted to deliver an experience that could combine facts and information, reflection, space for input from participants, and powerful opportunities for personal development – what else, in a course on storytelling?

It was an ambitious plan, and we set out to fulfill it including presentations

IMG_20160810_172211_HDR nature based activities

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artistic and intuitive workshops

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old-style sessions of sharing stories around the fire

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and one of its variants used often in education, the Way of Council

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We included ceremonies and rituals throughout our programme, and included an advenure inspired to the Hero’s Journey

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which needed to be fixed in a selfie (sorry, guys).

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here with Marina as the perfect photo bomber

We performed a few Threshold crossings

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and introduced old and new tools to tell stories, as here in an introductory workshop to the tarot cards

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and games – in a longer session on Gamification which included an experiential part with videogames (here an older post on the top 5 most-educational videogames I have played so far)

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and more classic forms of gaming: boardgames (here the group is playing Pandemic. Note: they lost)

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and social games (here Mafalda is leading a game of The Resistance). This quickly became one of the group’s favourites.

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And fun and parties, of course! We had movies, tv series, singing and a karaoke-ish night, and an evening out in Olomouc. Nothing better, for sharing stories.

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  • The stories. Creating the framework, however inspiring, rich and creative, was of course not enough. Then the stories had to fill it with their magic. And they did, oh they did.

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I had my moment of nerd glory. No – no workshop on Star Wars, this time. In a longer introduction to comics (the Invisible Art) I was able to present a short story of Batman, and the evolution of the character since its beginning in 1939.

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We used it to discuss the “origin story”, the key event that makes every hero (from ancient ones to the most contemporary) what they are. We presented the story of Batman, of how the young Bruce Wayne had to witness the brutal and pointless murder of both his parents,

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but also that of his historical nemesis – The Joker. A powerful, archetypal character which represents madness and chaos, but has a touching and very human background story.

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Described in “Batman: The Killing Joke” (1988, Moore/Bolland)

Then we asked our group to do the same: by using comics as a medium, represent what was their “Origin Story”. The results were amazing: the honesty, the courage – and the skills.

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I had goosebumps during the presentations. Sharing the stories was probably the emotional climax of the whole course.

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The works were impressive, for quality, content and creativity.

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The richness and vastness of the week was summarised beautifully and very effectively by Špela, who every day was illustrating with graphic reporting our experience.

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I mean, her work was really superb. It even made me understand the point of some of the things we have done!

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  • The place. We hosted the course in the eco-centre of Slunakov, a wonderful facility that is many things at the same time: a residential educational centre, a collection of artistic installations, a natural reserve – and probably more.

It gave us the opportunity to include its spaces and creations in the flow of our programme, making it so much richer and inspiring.

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And we did explore fully its potential. This is the Dark Cave we used for our version of the Monomyth.

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The place was lovely, really perfect for free time and relaxing, as well as for the most challenging activities.

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In the end, the impact the place had on the group was very deep, and it’s impossible to imagine how the course could have been, if we hadn’t been there.

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Some effects, of course, are more scary interesting than others.

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  • The team. Final mention to the team of organisers and storytellers that brought the whole experience together. Michele, Mafalda and the yours truly were in charge of the general flow of the activities,

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with Bara this time being more in the organiser’s chair (but delivering a fun and interactive workshop on the educational mobile app Action Bound, and an explosive session of 5 rythm dancing).

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And this time… Freddy was also with us! Yes, he is the very cat behind the title of this blog, so he has already achieved some celebrity status (at least, among my readers), but this time he was formally introduced to the world of European non formal education.

Well done! And he loved Slunakov’s nature, too.

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The proud Fellowship of the Dissemination was formed on the last day, which will help us to spread the story even further. Good luck guys, and may the force (of stories) be with you!

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It has started already, the facebook fan page – that will collect from now on all the experiences from the training courses of the “Get Storied” family – is going pretty well (join here if you want to be part of the fun!) and we also received some coverage on the local media, which is nice.

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Bottom line. This was an amazing experience, different from anything else we have done, and at the same time familiar but in a nice, reassuring way. I loved working with a group of total nerds story lovers, always ready for every challenge we would propose, and ready to share their incredibly rich and powerful worlds.

The course left me with that feeling of emptiness and nostalgia that only happens after the most intense personal experiences. It was the defining moment of my summer 2016 and gave me new tools, insights, and a strong motivation to continue working on stories and games, and on the power these tools have to heal, teach and inspire.

And: ta-daaaaaah! Group photo!  THANK YOU VERY MUCH.

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