As i continue to develop the Scaffolded Social Learning model, i’m struck by the importance of the Storyteller role. Under a scaffolded approach, we use two elements: formal and co-created social. The formal elements are the organisational side of the story: it creates a series of frames that we operate within. The social is the co-created conversations and activities that take place within the scaffolding. By combining formal and social elements within the scaffolding, we get the sense of travel and parameters that the organisation needs, but we benefit from the sense making function and wisdom of the community.
Done well, it’s a truly co-created experience. Done badly, it’s formal learning with a forum stuck on.
I’ve shared some components before: the model itself and, more recently, ten types of co-creative behaviours that we may utilise in design. I’ve also talked about levels of storytelling: personal, co-created and organisational.
Today though, let’s look at the Storyteller themselves: in full programmes, we may actively support the community by providing a storyteller with specific remit and functions.
At the personal narrative level, they are helping individuals understand about stance, tone of voice and amplification. It’s about helping people get off the starting blocks and it ties into some of the notions we’ve explored before in Social Leadership: curation, interpretation and storytelling. It’s about adding signal, not more noise. These are skills developed through practice and feedback, through rehearsal. The storyteller can be our coach and guide on this journey.
I’ve started bringing up a storyteller briefing session early in the programme, where they work one to one with the delegates on their first story. it’s important in this context to differentiate storytelling from Community Management or even moderation. The role is more akin to a coach: it’s not about helping people who have forgotten their password, or moderating. In fact, the stance is ‘alongside’, not ‘in control’. It’s facilitating and shared experience, not moderating or didactic.
At the co-creative level, the storyteller is working with the community as a whole: i describe this as a journalistic role, listening into the conversation and building a story of what is different and what is the same. In which areas of debate does the community agree, in which does it differ?
Unlike in much formal learning, the objective here isn’t to drive consensus in thought, word and deed: it’s to encourage diversity of thought and application, but within an agreed and common frame.
I’ve started including the publication of a co-created community narrative for each cohort within the learning design: literally each group producing a magazine or video in a common format (core narrative) but with different elements produced by different people.
At the organisational level, the storyteller is helping to relate the co-created output to the organisational strategy: grounding the organisation in the language of it’s teams. This can, in some ways, be the hardest part: the way we are bold enough, as an organisation, to change in response to what is said and done in the cohorts.
When implemented successfully, Scaffolded Social Learning provides a structure for development, over time, within community, to the benefit of both individual and organisation. Done badly, it’s another training programme where we pass or fail people on their performance in the room, not in their ability in the real world.
The storyteller role is not passive: it will not be successful by accident. Like so much in learning design, the excellence will come through careful design, not by accident. It’s all about choreography.