Leaning forward, leading change

Until two weeks ago, I had never heard of Mount Milligan, but I have not been able to stop thinking about it since the day I did. I’ve even dreamt about it, and I’ve been wondering if it is actually possible for me to make all the complicated arrangements necessary to make the twelve-hour road-trip with my car-seat-hating baby to this place I’ve never been. I’ve also wondered whether it is possible for me to not make the trip, and acknowledge the sacred value of the place before it is destroyed in the name of resource extraction.

Such is the power of story.

The Stonehouse Institute brought together some 150 amazing people to participate in the Leaning Forward, Leading Change: Storytelling & Community Organizing Training at VanDusen Gardens in Vancouver, on the weekend of March 21st. Based on the framework developed by Marshall Ganz, the over-arching idea presented at the training was that if we can tell better stories, public narratives, to be precise, we can move people to join us and step-up themselves to press for change.

By the end of day two, the training had proven that stories can divide people as easily as they can unite them. Occasionally, people would publicly wonder, “What am I doing here?” Others came out and clarified, I’m not an environmentalist, or, I’m not Left-wing. But at a certain point, in the void of scratched-out labels, commonality emerged. We’re all human-beings, breathing air, drinking water (sometime copious amounts of coffee), suffering, loving, dreaming and working hard to hold on to whatever hope we can find. We found a way to work together. We told our stories.

It’s Anne Marie Sam’s story, told near the end of day three, that grabbed a hold of me and won’t let go. I won’t re-tell it here, because I don’t think that would do the story justice, but its about “Mount Milligan,” and the importance of the land not just because of her people’s history on it, or because of its intrinsic value, but because what happens there will impact the kind of future her daughters can look forward to.

I can say for sure that Anne’s story changed me. I would venture to guess (although I will only be able to tell you, for sure, in about a months’ time) that it started a movement of people who will head north to the mountain she calls Shus Nadloh.

For more on telling powerful, effective stories, check-out the resources available on Marshall Ganz’s Leading Change Network website.

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