By Any Media Necessary: Mapping Youth and Participatory Politics

Stories Inc.: Personal Storytelling for Social Issues

Created by: Emily Dods, Jordan Fowler, Adam Joe, Megan Park ;

Workshop 2 Hours, 10 -15 People



Workshop is designed to enable participants to tell a personal story about a social issue that they are connected to and/or are passionate about. At the end, every participant will leave with the practical skills of storytelling, an ability to communicate a social issue to an audience, and a roadmap of how to tell their own story related to the social issue across whichever media platform they choose.

Supplies Needed:

Story Creation Worksheet for each participant (*If resources are limited, you may write these questions on the board instead.) This worksheet is included below.Recommended one facilitator per ten participants.

Facilitator Preparation:

Write some of the core elements of a story on a separate sheets of paper/note cards. Each card or piece of paper should have one element written on it. The elements you should write are: Character, Setting, Plot, Conflict, Resolution.

Icebreaker (5 minutes)

The facilitator should have each participant tell their parents go-to story that they tell about your childhood to embarrass you. Be sure to make sure each story is told succinctly and keep each participant to a 1 minute maximum length.

Describe Goal of Workshop (2 Minutes)

Workshop is designed to enable participants to tell a personal story about a social issue that they are connected to and/or are passionate about. At the end, every participant will leave with the practical skills of storytelling, an ability to communicate a social issue to an audience, and a roadmap of how to tell their own story related to the social issue across whichever media platform they choose.

Quiz on Core Elements That Make a Story Work (5 Minutes)

The basic/simple core elements of a story are: Character, Setting, Plot, Conflict, Resolution. The facilitator should have these core elements written down on backs of notecards. Stick these notecards on a wall, with the blank side facing the participants. Split the participants into teams, and then have them take turns guessing what the core elements of story are. You will do this by bringing up one member of each team to the front. The facilitator will ask: name one (anyone) of a core element of a story. Whoever slaps the facilitators hand first gets to answer. If they don’t guess the exact core element, it is up to the facilitator to decide if the term they suggested is sufficient. Then, the other participant standing at the front, can have a chance to guess as well. As they guess correctly, turn the cards face out so that the core elements of story can be seen.

You may play the family feud song here:

Facilitator’s Note: Play Family Feud music if desirable while the team members send one person up at a time to the front to guess. If participants are having trouble coming up with a core element of a story, you can prompt them.

Character: the subjects in the story

Setting: where does the story take place

Plot: what happens in a story

Conflict Prompt: this is the problem

Resolution Prompt: this is the problem solving point

Additionally you can have a prize for the winning team. See example of Family Feud here:

Explanation on the Structure of Story/How to tell a story (5 Minutes)

The facilitator will explain the structure of a story in a mini-lecture format. In this section the facilitator will go into detail about other terms that fall under each of the broader categories of the element of a story.

Introduce what a story is and why it is important. Stories are everywhere and all of us are exposed to stories everyday. Films, books, music, and TV shows, all have stories to it. Stories entertain;; they help people connect with others;; they help communicate ideas;; they can create empathy;; stories can change the way people think;; which changes the way people feel;; which then changes the way people act. Simply put, stories have the power to change lives, and change the world. Stories are so prevalent and are so powerful that many people have dedicated their lives to studying what makes a good story work. Ultimately, a story comes down to a character who wants something and has to overcome something to get it. But let’s break down what a story is into 5 basic components.

A story has five basic components: characters, setting, plot, conflict and resolution. Write these on the board to help participants understand this. (Include visuals, write on the board, etc.)
  1. Characters: Characters are the subjects in the story, the people, maybe an object, an animal. The two basic characters in a story, are the protagonist and the antagonist. The protagonist is the person in the story who will take the journey, the main character. It is helpful to think of the protagonist as the main character in the story who wants something, and has to overcome something(obstacles, etc.) to get it. The antagonist is the opposing character, often seen as the “bad guy”.
  2. Setting: Where the story takes place, what kind of world is the story set in.
  3. Plot: The sequence of events in a story. This includes an inciting incident. In an inciting incident something happens to a character that sets them up onto their journey. It is an often “exciting” event that forces the character to adapt and then begin his/her journey. A low point, in nearly every story/plot, the main character experiences a low point. A point in the story when the rain is falling, the character has experienced a setback, and it seems all is lost.
  4. Conflict: Every story has to have conflict, tension. The character has to be faced with an obstacle, and they must either overcome it, or lose. Conflict is what makes a story interesting. A climax is when the plot is resolved. It is, for example, when the witch is going to take the brother to cook him and the woodsman come and saves the day which can be identified as the resolution.
  5. Resolution: The ending of the story. How does the story end? Is it a happy ending, a sad ending? A victory? A tragedy?

Example: Lord of the Rings-Frodo, Middle earth, get the ring destroyed, ring possessing Frodo, Ring destroyed overcoming obstacles.
(See the below visual for help in understanding more of what a story is)

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; A character who wants something, and has to overcome obstacles to achieve it.
Oral Brainstorm on Effective Stories in Fairy Tales (10 minutes)

Divide the group up into 4 groups. Each group will be assigned to one story -either a fairy tale: Three Little Pigs, Hansel and Gretel, Little Red Riding Hood, Cinderella or a pop culture narrative: Harry Potter and Titanic. You can decide which group is assigned to what narrative based on the common narrative the participants know. Have them come up with the 5 core elements that are present in their story. If they don’t know they are assigned, they should look it up. Be sure participants don’t get carried away with talking about their story for too long and getting bogged down into the details.Facilitator Note: Here are the fairytale narratives.

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Facilitator Note: Here are the “pop culture” narrative.

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Group Brainstorm on “Stickiness” (5-10 minutes)

Facilitator should ask the entire group: What are some common elements present in those stories that makes them so memorable? What are some patterns that you see/what makes theses stories stick?

Facilitator Note: If participants have trouble coming up with ideas that answer the question of why these stories are “sticky” you can share some of these examples below of what we think makes something stick


Examples of organizations that succeed in storytelling = 4D Storytelling (10 minutes)

The facilitator should show the three examples below of organizations that have decided to incorporate the power of storytelling with social issues to create an impact. Emphasize that ultimately, people want to not just hear a good story, they want to be invited into the story, leading into the idea of 4D storytelling that you can describe after the videos. Feel free to chose your own videos to show if you feel attached to a particular story you’ve seen before. The goal of this video is to show a powerful story that uses a personal narrative to help connect viewers to the social issue.


Charity:Water-Rachel’s Video - (Show Entire Video).


These are organizations are ones that have taken a social issue like we just did, and have added a storytelling element to engage potential volunteers. Verbally introduce the concept of 4D Storytelling idea-People don’t want to just hear a good story, they want to be invited to participate in it and be a part of the greater story. This is the 4th dimension.


Discussion of the Ethics of Storytelling (2 minutes)

Emphasize that while telling a story in regards to a social movement, certain ethics need to be kept in mind. One must not lose touch with the original goal: to help those in need/raise awareness etc. Stories live on after they are created and have the danger of morphing into something that is not related to the original goal. explain some of the potentially ethical areas in areas the facilitators show above.


Group Brainstorm of Social Issues (5 minutes)

The group should think of social issues (any and all). They can be issues in their community, issues they have dealt with personally or issues their friends have dealt with. They can just shout them out. Write these all down so all participants can see.


Facilitator Notes: You may want to research some issues ahead of time to be prepared. If the group gets stuck here are some examples: racism, sexism, classism, hunger, poverty, human trafficking, access to clean water, access to education, literacy, obesity, women’s rights, recycling/conservation, affirmative action, animal rights, bullying, domestic violence, etc.


Personal Connection to Social Issues Think Session (15 minutes)

The facilitator should have each participant pick a social issue that they are passionate about (perhaps out of the ones mentioned in the previous brainstorm, but they can pick a new one.) The facilitator should then ask the participants to do some brainstorming regarding the questions mentioned below.

Have the participants think individually (5 minutes)

Why are you passionate about X?

When did you become passionate?

How are you personally connected to this issue? Then, have the participants share in pairs (5 minutes) Then, have the participants share in larger group (10 minutes)

Show a video that demonstrates storytelling and personal stories relating to social issues. A good example of this is the “It Gets Better” that are easily produced, and have people telling their personal stories relating to homosexuality.


● Bullying story told through cards (show 2-3 mintues of video)

Facilitator should remind the participants about the concept of “stickiness.”


Individual Story Creation (40 Minutes)

Now participants will use the same social issue used in the individual brainstorm, to create their own personal story, told from their own perspective, related to the issue keeping in mind the core elements that make a story work. Give each participants this worksheet to fill out. Encourage them to think about how their stories will invite people in to participate in their story and be a part of it(think about 4D Storytelling). They have 15 minutes to do this.


Sample Form To Give Participants

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Story Creation What is the social issue?

How/why are you connected to it?

What is a story you can tell about your relationship to the social issue (keep in mind the core elements of a story)?

Who is going to be your audience when you promote this issue?

What are the action steps people can do to solve this issue?

Practicing 4D Storytelling: What media platforms would you use to disseminate your story in the future? For example, videos, instagram, twitter, etc.

What will be the “stickiness element” if your story?

Present (1-2 minute presentations each = about 25 minutes)

Feedback/Reflection on presentations (5 minutes)


Wrap Up (5 minutes)


(1) The facilitator should explain that everything in this workshop stays within this group. A lot of people shared personal stories and we want to maintain this safe space.

(2) Pledge to Action: The facilitator should explain this concept of a “Pledge to action.” This pledge to action includes each participant taking these personal engaging stories back to their school and using them to attract others to get on board with them to collectively make an even bigger change. (ie;; start a club, volunteer together).

(3) Accountability: The facilitator will explain that in order to hold each other accountable, the facilitator will share each member of the group on a google doc that includes all of the contact information of the people in the group. This is so that the group can continue to support each other and change the world together, as a community. *Should a participant not want to participate in this component, they don’t have to.*

(4) The facilitator should encourage the participants to follow each other on twitter, like each others instagrams, like them on facebook, etc in order to keep the connection going and create a support group as well.


Sample Keep In Touch Form

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Side Notes Practical Takeaways:

High school students-> storytelling skills, writing skills, potential help in college admission, club leadership, getting a student org started and to mobilize students to join them in a movement to see change College students-> storytelling skills, writing skills, help in leading/starting organizations, Non-profit people-> communicating their branding/social issue more effectively and seeing tangible increases in reach, revenue

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