NewStories in Action
Our projects are a dynamic ecosystem of interrelated work where new stories and new possibilities are created.
This is a time for astonishing social transformation and systems change. All around the world, people are coming together to imagine and co-create the lives and communities that provide health, vitality, and resilience for future generations. People are finding pathways that are life-affirming rather than those that are extractive and privilege the few at the expense of the many. This is regenerating community.
The most powerful work of these times is done in the cracks revealed through the process of systemic collapse and renewal. We work with a number of people and projects taking root in the cracks of climate, pandemic, and equity. NewStories helps people develop clarity, courage, skills, and support to transform the ways we are living in our communities and on our planet for a healthy, thriving, and regenerative future.
We are convenors and facilitators, teachers and coaches, listeners and speakers using participatory and systems change approaches. Our learning programs help people develop insights, and skills, connection and community. We work with partners to develop initiatives which help communities come together to pursue a future where people and planet thrive together.
Everyone who is willing to stand up, reach out and make changes that make a difference is a leader. These times require all of us who have enough clarity to step forward, enough humility to listen and enough wisdom to keep learning. NewStories supports leaders in finding their next steps.
Since the beginning of the pandemic in 2020, NewStories has been offering participatory virtual dialogues to help people make sense and develop new skills to navigate overwhelming chaos. Since then we have convened well over a 100 of these dialogues. Sometimes they are private; usually they are public; always they are a space of gratitude where finding meaning and making sense of these times.
We will continue these salons in 2022.
What’s more, we’ve had many people tell us that the way NewStories works virtually is different than a lot out there. It is. We center relationships and learning rather than content. We rely on slow, on embodiment, on silence. Want help in doing this yourself? Please reach out.
Regenerating Community Leaders
In community after community, people are coming together to reimagine what’s possible and work collectively to make it happen. We work with these grassroots leaders who are regenerating communities.
They come from government and nonprofits, churches and universities. Some work mostly alone, many in teams. The work is often about preparing for and recovering from disasters, and is also the transformative stretch to build truly healthy and resilient communities.
In 2022 we are offering learning spaces – courses, training, personal development — to support these leaders
PARTICIPATORY LEADERSHIP FOR CLIMATE ACTIOn
In 2021 NewStories had the privilege of working with a couple dozen folks who wanted to learn different ways of providing community leadership for work on climate change. Most participants were from British Columbia, home of NewStories’ Executive Director Jenn Meilleur.
Originally this was to have been a face-to-face training in May of 2020. COVID-19 changed that. In 2021 we offered 5 two-hour virtual sessions over 5 months. Those who participated in 2021 wanted to continue learning and working together as a community of practice.
We’re beginning in early 2022! Please consider joining us.
Disaster Preparation and Recovery
In the quiet of the night a single spark sets a fire that burns and burns. Angry winds and seas wash communities away. COVID-19 destroys lives and patterns of living. We can prepare for what is coming next. We can recover from what happened last. We can do the even harder work of transforming the underlying structures and patterns in order to build communities that are more healthy and resilient.
Bob Stilger, spent six years working in communities across Japan after the Triple Disasters of earthquake, tsunami and nuclear explosions of March 11, 2011. The insights he developed and stories he heard about how we build the new after everything falls apart led to his book AfterNow: When We Cannot See the Future, Where Do We Begin, which was first published in Japanese in 2015 and then in English in 2017.
Bob is available for participatory keynotes, seminars and thought partnering, based on more than 40 years of work in communities and 10 in post-disaster contexts.
NewStories was invited into Paradise, California a few months after the devastating Camp Fire of November 8, 2018. We hosted community meetings and strategic planning groups to begin to sense a way forward. The Paradise people knew was gone and it wasn’t coming back. What might the future hold? What could a new community be? We’ve been working with local citizens to develop frameworks, plans and strategies for building the next Paradise.
All of this was hard in 2019. Then COVID-19 hit. Then more fires in 2020. But people find a way, together.
Deschutes County Recovery Plan
Deschutes County is in the heartland of Eastern Oregon’s High Desert, with the panorama of Oregon’s Cascades on the horizon. In these times, wildfire is always a danger, just a match or a lightning strike away. The County approached NewStories in early 2020 for help with developing a disaster recovery plan. Then COVID-19 arrived. And as 2020 has continued to unfold, it’s become obvious that this community and the entire region need to be talking not just about recovery, but about transition to a more just and equitable community.
Pandemic Debrief Community Conversations
Recognizing that people in community would benefit in many ways from participating in a debrief process, and recognizing that the experiences of people in community are integral to the services that organizations active in disasters provide, NewStories began to partner with Health Networks and community groups to invite the community to come together to debrief virtually.
Northern California Fire Affected Counties Network
NewStories was a regular presence in Napa and Sonoma in 2018 and 2019. Our work in 2020 has all been virtual where we have created safe spaces for learning and connection, linking people within communities and across the region to learn together about how to deal with the fires, and the forced power shut-offs, COVID-19.
This is time to create a deeper web of connections and shared learning and perhaps collective action across the Northern California region.
These are times to be prepared for whatever may be around the next corner. We face the unexpected best together. We do that best when we’ve firmed up our connections with each other before we’re in the middle of an undeniable mess. Ready Together is a seven part process for near-neighbors coming together to both get to know each other and to get prepared.
Transition US has led the way here with partnership from NewStories. We’re working together now to reimagine what preparation means in a time of pandemic.
Regenerating community, together
We are in the midst of a paradigmatic shift. The old story is one of power over, exploitation and extraction. The new stories are ones of power- with, fierce compassion and regeneration.Always ask: is what we might do likely to increase the vitality and strength of all parts of our system, or is it likely to privilege some parts at the expense of others, extracting resources rather than regenerating them?
Participatory Leadership for Climate Action, British Columbia, Canada
British Columbia is another place NewStories calls home. Our Executive Director, Jenn Meilleur, lives in the Comox Valley of Vancouver Island and she’s worked for years all across the province. NewStories was approached in late 2019 to be part of the hosting team for a May, 2020 Art of Participatory Leadership in the Kootenays of eastern BC. This 3-day training was designed for climate activists in the province to develop participatory leadership practices, tools and insights for systems change and for leading climate change work in their local areas.
When the pandemic was declared in March, 2020 we pivoted and immediately started offering online training to participants. In July when it became clear that we would not be meeting in person for quite some time, we shifted again. We started to envision a virtual learning, practice and action program that would connect people in learning and leaning into bold leadership for a just, equitable, and regenerative future.
First People’s Climate Forced Displacement
In 2018 the Unitarian Universalist Service Committee contracted with NewStories to design and facilitate a First People’s Convening on Climate Forced Displacement. The convening grew out of a conversation years earlier when an Alaskan tribal leader was discussing climate forced displacement with his counterparts in the South Pacific. He said one day you must come to my lands. More than 60 first peoples gathered – from the South Pacific and Alaskan villages, from Washington State, Louisiana and Bangladesh and others places as well. In four days it became clear that there was an overarching story that linked everyone in the room.
A second convening planned in Fiji for October, 2020 was postponed. We are now pausing and reconsidering what’s needed now. Is there meaningful work we can do virtually? When will it be safe to gather. What truly flourishes when we are face-to-face and what can we do virtually?
We’ll be sharing more as this evolves.
Twenty years ago, just as this century began, NewStories joined with The Berkana Institute, co-founded by Meg Wheatley in the early 90s and Peer Spirit, co-founded by Christina Baldwin, to launch From the Four Directions, People Everywhere Leading The Way. The simple premise we had was that being in sacred conversation with others seeking clarity about their leadership was the best place for all of us to grow in our leadership. This initiative was the birthplace for both The Art of Hosting Conversations That Matter as well as the Berkana Exchange.
From 2004-2011, the Berkana Exchange was a translocal learning community, linking people, primarily in the Global South, who were building healthing and resilient communities. It was an amazing exchange of passion, vision, strategies, pain and possibilities held together by a core set of processes and practices, including an annual gathering described in Alive in Community.
This network is reconnecting. Right now as a place for us to be with each other and each other’s council. Stay tuned
NewStories lives in a web of insight, experience, and stories. Another part of our mission is to bring forward the knowledge and insights from our work and from many partners and colleagues in North America and around the world. We have organized and curate three bodies of knowledge that we know are useful for those of us trying to make sense of these times. You can access this curated knowledge from our Resources Page.