How do I help my audience dream?

Story-Strategy, Act 2 Episode 5 – The Journey: Possibilities 2

There was once a poor woman who had two children. The youngest had to go every day into the forest to fetch wood. Once when she had gone a long way to seek it, a little child, who was quite strong, came and helped her industriously to pick up the wood and carry it home, and then all of a sudden the strange child disappeared. The girl told her mother about the strange child, but at first the mother would not believe it. At length she brought a rose home, and told her mother that the beautiful strong child had given her this rose, and had told her that when it was in full bloom, he would return. The mother put the rose in water. One morning her child could not get out of bed. The mother went to the bed and found her dead, and yet she lay looking very happy. Next to her on the window sill, the rose was in full bloom. (A Brothers Grim Fairy tale)

Why is it that the girl had to choose between either alive but poor or  happy but dead?

What if it was possible to choose life AND happiness?

This story helps me to illustrate the second step in the Beginning stage of Story-Strategy: Opening up possibility. We also sometimes refer to it as the ‘Call to Adventure’ or ‘creating the gap’. The gap opens up between the current reality of the audience as established in Step 1 and the possibility that your model or programme offers. It is the gap between where they are and where they dream of going. This step helps you to give them a glimpse of the end destination and the unspoken promise that you can guide them across the cavern.

Again using an actual story for this step can be very effective, but you may choose a case study (a kind of story in itself), or use participative processes or liberating structures to let the audience articulate their own ideal reality. What ever you do:

Issue a Call to Adventure that opens up new possibilities

(then one day something unusual happens).

Once the story scene has been set with someone somewhere in a certain fix (Step 1) something happens that rocks the boat. Cinderella gets an invitation to the Prince’s ball, Little Red’s mother calls her to take a basket to gran, Brave Heart’s love is murdered, Harry Potter gets a letter from Hogwarts School of Witch craft and Wizardry and Ned Stark of Winterfell is summoned against his will to become the king’s hand compelling him to leave his family and his castle possibly forever.

Whether positive or negative, the inciting incident causes a shift in the current reality opening up the characters to perspectives, experiences and behaviours that were not on their radar before. Your process needs to make the same kind of effect on your audience in order to pull them deeper into the story in the room.

  • What new opportunity or possibilities do you/your material or programme open up?
  • How do you communicate these possibilities?
  • How do you inspire your audience to begin dreaming a new dream?
  • How do you frame negative events as opportunities?

Keeping the SHIFT model in mind how can we create opportunities for people to dream their own dreams rather than us telling them what dream to dream? Or, if you do have a particular dream you want them to drea, how do you invite them into that dream so that they too can own it?

Examples to follow in tomorrow’s post.