The stories we heard on October 6th made us laugh, and cry, and learn. Like Carrie Large at ACR Health, who shared powerful, painful moments to emphasize immediate needs. From Sara Spezzano of the Parkway Center, who talked about their client Liz viewing the Center as a second home – a home where she has found friends, and a purpose. There were videos shot entirely on camera phones, such as PEACE’s story of Grandpa Roy in the Foster Grandparent program. And the Syracuse Community Choir closed with a song of their founding and philosophy.
All this, and more, was part of “Growing Stories in our Community,” a celebration held on October 6th in the ballroom of the former Hotel Syracuse. Eleven organizations told their stories through live presentation, photo essays, video and as mentioned, song. Sean Kirst led off the event with a tale about Syracuse history, and Andy Goodman of The Goodman Center gave a keynote address on how to use the web to tell stories.
“This is the impact this program has had on me and the way I talk about my organization,” said Spezzano as she closed her presentation. “If you had asked me just a few months ago what the Parkway Center does I would have told you our mission, I would have given you facts, and figures, and you would not have been able to pick my organization out of a line-up. Now I hope you remember the Parkway Center as a second home.”
The event capped off six months of participation in StoryGrowing, a pilot initiative funded by three grantmakers (the Central New York Community Foundation, the Gifford Foundation and the Health Foundation for Western and Central New York.) Starting in mid-April, teams of 4 (staff, volunteers and board members) from each nonprofit have learned about developing, performing, writing, editing, filming and sharing stories – through regular workshops, specialized trainings, coaching and a learning community. Ranging in size, type and geography, the organizations were:
Center for Court Innovation
Child Care Solutions
CNY Arts Center, Inc.
From the Group Up Therapeutic Horsemanship
Learning Disabilities Association of CNY
Syracuse Community Choir
The nonprofits will continue with a variety of coaches that they select to meet each specific organizational need. One organization is spending their 20 hours of coaching on everything from vision/branding to writing stories, from collecting and archiving to social media sharing, from interview techniques to videography and photography. Others have concentrated specifically on training their staff members to feel more comfortable telling stories in front of audiences.
The coaching model is designed to meet organizations from where they actually are rather than where they are “expected” to be. Inherent in the model is the concept of flexibility. “Just having someone listen to us brainstorming and giving objective feedback has been invaluable. It took several sessions … to finally exhaust our various viewpoints and come to one common focus,” reports Nancy Fox of Fulton’s CNY Arts Center. “It’s really been so much more than story-telling for us! Maybe it’s just us as a young organization but we really needed that time to sort out the need. I am encouraged these last few sessions now will really give us a concrete direction to go in and see a real difference in the coming year.”