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Storytelling, play and chocolate brownies

people attending Storytelling and Resilience forum

The RAW Network met yesterday for its first full day Forum – a chance to share learning, connect with each other and explore our organisational and personal stories of resilience.

“Storytelling for Resilience” was the theme of the day. We looked at how to make meaning from our organisational and personal stories in order to build empathy, make connections and share learning, using the power of the peer-based approach.

We were joined by Sonia Mayor and Glyn Fussell, who injected the group with humour and energy through their Positive Play interventions.

These included experimenting with different ways to connect with each other. Organisations that have a culture of being more open and allowing people to bring their whole self to work encourage personal and group resilience. By taking the time and space to connect with others, you are in a better place to have difficult conversations when they are necessary because you have already built a depth of relationship.

In the morning we each looked at the story that had brought our organisations to this point in time and what is emerging now. In the afternoon the focus switched to our personal stories – we looked at our work lives and mapped our “rivers of resilience” – how resilience had flowed or not, what had helped and hindered, and what we had taken from our experiences that we carry with us. Sharing our stories with others helped us identify triggers, internal messages, key events, choices and lessons about resilience.

As Taylor Kreiss notes, resilience helps us make sense of things. Researchers who study how we move forward after traumatic life events have found that many people see their most challenging moments as what brought about the most growth. Psychologists Richard Tedeschi and Lawrence Calhoun even coined the term “post-traumatic growth” to refer to this phenomenon. Many of us relate to our challenges this way, and while we shouldn’t wish trauma or suffering upon ourselves, it’s easy to see how our most painful moments of grief, sadness, sickness, or pain shape who we are.

In Walk Out Walk On: A Learning Journey into Communities Daring to Live the Future Now, Margaret Wheatley, says: “Resilience is learning to dance with life, to flex, adapt and create as life keeps surprising us.”

She adds: “Throughout time and culture, humans have learned how to survive, to persevere. Until recently, many of us thought we didn’t have to worry about resilience. We believed in continuous progress, that life was always going to get better. Now, perhaps, we understand that systems do fail, that economies do collapse… As more people experience hardships and loss, resilience has become a popular word. It’s often described as a personal capacity, something we need to develop on our own. But like any of life’s strengths, resilience grows in relationships, in community.”

Spending the day in this community, reflecting on work and organisational life, what makes me stronger and borrowing strategies from others to try out, has given me lots to think about. We said the day would be about “Broadening your practice and discovering your potential” and for me this rang true – in perhaps unexpected ways! Although they are in diverse organisations, and at very different stages of life, other members of the network share common concerns, experiences and strategies. Resilience is definitely something to explore more through our working and social relationships.

And the chocolate brownie? Part of the delicious lunch we shared – and a definite boost to my own feelings of wellbeing!

Find out more about the Resilience and Wellbeing Network.