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Story Field Conference - Executive Summary

Page history last edited by PBworks 13 years, 10 months ago


Executive Summary


On August 26-31, 2007, eighty-three people passionate about the role of story in shaping collective world view – writers, artists, musicians, meta-story tellers and others – convened at Shambhala Mountain Center in the wild mountains outside of Red Feather, Colorado to consider these questions:

  • What is the new story that is already calling us? 
  • What emerging narrative is so powerful that it draws us to hope, care, and engage?
  • How can our stories actually shift society into greater aliveness and wisdom?


They were hosted by a self-organizing and principally volunteer team committed to affecting the conscious evolution of the “story field” – the cultural narrative that shapes our lives.  And the conference ended with this invocation:


We are calling into being our collective soul so that our many-storied world can find its way.


To which we would now add

…and each and every one of us inhabits the roles we are called to play.


This report is intended for our conference funders, the people who attended the conference, those who were invited but were unable to attend, and anyone with whom participants wish to share it.   It contains the following sections:

·          Background – the themes which inspired the conference and the process design as it unfolded

·          Outcomes – what attendees said about the conference and their involvement

·          What We Learned – key insights about both the conference’s subject matter and the process

·          What is Next?  – energies and possibilities emerging from the gathering

·          Accounting – time and resources invested in making this happen


We intended a diverse mix of storytelling professionals, and we got them.  Among the participants were writers, activists, futurists, bloggers, visual artists, academics, musicians, documentary makers, advertising people, journalists, publishers, radio people, philanthropists, and others.  And we had significant diversity of age, ethnicity, gender, and class.  We designed for different forms of presence (head, heart, body, spirit) and were supported by emergent process.


During the gathering, most participants had a lived experience of the new story – in which they found the space to express themselves fully as unique individuals with fears, grief, anger, and joy.  There was something to trigger just about everyone.  Tensions surfaced that usually remain invisible: male/female, people of color/white, indigenous/Western, young/old.  And yet -- thanks to the process and hosting team -- they evoked curiosity rather than polarization, resulting in deep connections and a sense that communities can develop increased capacity to create a desirable future together.  We collectively used difference and conflict creatively by calling forth our innate ability to hear, see, and love ourselves and each other, sensing connection to the larger whole, and making conscious the story field that shapes our cultural patterns and norms.  Through this embodied experience, a rich tapestry of learnings emerged, including:

·          The existing story, while seemingly monolithic for the dominant culture, is in fact, many-storied and experienced radically differently based upon race, age, gender, sub-culture, class, and life experience.

·          How the new story is told is as critical to its effectiveness as is its content.

·          The new story makes room for all of our diverse voices, because they help us experience ourselves as a meaningful part of a complex and vibrant whole much larger than ourselves.

·          Taking responsibility for stewarding the emergence of a healthy new story includes:

-         recognizing it as a never ending story, continually unfolding through its living and telling

-         understanding that it is actually many stories, loosely knit, forming a complex, richly textured weave of meaning

-         developing a friendly relationship with dissonance and the unknown

-         transcending dualities so that our differences bring coherence and wholeness rather than conflict and division;

-         discovering the capacities to risk, to welcome diversity; and to co-operate because we know we are all aspects of a larger whole held by deep commonalities;

-         paying attention to the feedback loops that allow us to learn and grow in consciousness and wisdom

-         engaging with emergent process, in which outcomes unfold and the path is formed by walking it, because it calls forth novelty at the growing edge of our collective evolution;


A rich inquiry was opened into the useful and productive tension between mystery/emergence/dissonance and a focus on getting things done.   


What is next?

Most participants were profoundly affected by the conference and the intense sense of communitas[1] it generated.  Many of them are continuing friendships, conversations, and projects, including organizing at least one story field conference in 2008. 



For purposes of transparency, an accounting of the time and money involved with hosting the gathering is included in this report.  Funding that made the conference possible came through the Kellogg Foundation.  The conference also benefited from a grant specifically to bring four Hawaiian participants.  The conference was priced so that each fully paid registration helped to fund young people and people of color who would not otherwise be able to afford to participate.

[1] Communitas is what happens when a whole group of people cross a threshold and together enter liminal time and space – that is, an in-between time that is neither past nor present and a space that is neither here nor there. In that threshold space, they experience a bond, and it is not like any bond they may experience in their ordinary structured lives. York’s definition demonstrates that communitas is not the same as community. Communitas is a process where no-one is marginalized, because everyone is on the margin. It is a transitory period of transformation, which enables societies to return to their way of living in dramatically new ways. Who the people are is not what is important here – any group of people can form communitas. What is important is that the focus is on the action of this group; they cross a threshold together.



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