A story about Story Harvest: a tool for group listening

    Should I start? Yeah.

    Setting the scene: a national nonprofit

    We had a call from a national nonprofit that works with cruelty to animals of various kinds. In particular a group that works with urban wildlife. So people have deer or raccoons or possums or whatever in the yard. And they tend to either be mean to them, shoot them, poison them, or over-love them, collect them, get them all living in their basement or something.

    And so, this group operates really like an ad agency. So they do these campaigns. For ten years they'd done these advertising campaigns. Which basically were, "Hey, stop that. Shame on you." Yeah. And the theory of change was, "If we educate them, they'll stop doing it. Or if we make them feel bad, they'll stop doing it."

    And they had done some kind of assessment and realized it wasn't working. Well, they talked to us about learning something about design and having some different experience. And we asked, "Well, how long since you talked to people who are mean to animals?" And they kind of got quiet, you know, cause the answer is they had never had done that.

    And so we worked with them and they actually convened different people in the room from senior people down to graphic designers. And then here's someone who'd had a whole career of being mean to animals in the horse racing industry, and somebody who over-loves them, and the guy who gets the call in the city when something bad happens.

    And so, here's these people... can I just keep going with this?

    Yeah, okay.

    Well, clearly there's judgment present in the room, right? Presuppositions about who these folks are and why they're doing what they're doing, because they're bad people.

    There's a method we use called collective story harvest. You have the actual people in the room and you give them a good long time to tell their story. From the time they were little. And the people from the non-profit all get what's called a listening lens. So they get a job to do. Your job to listen for all the relationships in the story and write it down on the sheet of paper. You listen to all the decisions and the inner life. And you listen for emotions. So they all have a job. So it's hard for your judgment to get a word in edgeways, cause you're busy doing your job. Yeah. So you listened to these stories. Four stories.

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