Introducing: Storytelling As Leadership — A global movement to listen to the powerful voices of our children

Sowmya Swaminathan
Posted May 1, 2020 from India
Storytelling As Leadership
Credit: Faizan for the painting

Submission to Be A Featured Changemaker (#SheTransformsTech) 

Storytelling As Leadership (SAL) is a global movement to empower ALL children to create and share their stories with the world. 

The Problem

Every being has a burning need and a fundamental right to voice his/her/their deep-seated thoughts. 

But, adults routinely ignore, neglect, silence, suppress and trample on the voices of children — especially those from vulnerable communities or those with disabilities/disorders — across the world. They ask children to “shut up”, “stay quiet” and “behave”. Why? 

The Unicef sheds some light:

"...the reasons for excluding children from participation in matters that affect them are remarkably consistent across different parts of the world: children lack competence; they lack knowledge and judgement; involving them in decisions is to place too heavy a burden on them; parents know what is best for their children; giving children a voice will lead to excessive demands, bad behaviour, disrespect for elders; participation will expose children to risk of harm. However, we have learned over the past 20 years that these concerns are not borne out by the evidence. Time and again, experience shows that children – even very young children – given the time and opportunity, demonstrate not only that they have views, experiences and perspectives to express, but that their expression can contribute positively to decisions that affect the realisation of their rights and wellbeing.”

Every Child' Right to be Heard (2011 report)

The voices of all children are powerful. They enable us to learn, see the world differently and question the status quo. 

Children are our equals. How can we expect to grow if we refuse to listen to them? How can we create sustainable development if we leave our children — our truest partners in progress — behind?

Storytelling As Leadership is an initiative to listen to all of our children. It is a free and safe platform to make their voices and stories visible to the world. It is a global movement to empower all children to share their stories of — love, hope, courage, failure, fear, loss, growth, mischief, playfulness, joy, curiosity and more — with the world.  

Our Vision

One day, all children will be empowered storytellers.

Our Values

Equality: Every being is equal, and deserves equal rights and opportunities to lead a gratifying life.

Kindness: Every being is inherently kind, and deserves to receive kindness through words and actions.

Storytelling and Leadership: Every being is a gifted storyteller and leader, and can create limitless possibilities and endless change.

Courage, Passion and Faith: Every being deserves to build infinite courage, passion and faith in their own selves and the world.

Our Program

Leadership is essentially a social construct. We have the free will to define Leadership however we perceive it to be. At SAL, Leadership is Storytelling, and Storytelling is Leadership. Why? Because, both require Courage, Passion and Faith.

Storytelling is primarily a process of conjuring and sustaining immense courage and unbridled passion in our desire to tell a good story. 

J.K. Rowling shaped childhoods and influenced generations of young minds with one magical Story. Greta Thunberg rattled the mightiest world leaders with one stirring Story. Abraham Lincoln defined the contours of democracy with one rousing Story.

Every time a person decides to rise up and share their Story, they are essentially taking a leap of faith. They become a Leader. They make the world better.

I strive to bring alive the idea of Storytelling As Leadership through a three-fold model —

Create-Connect-Change

Create: Every child will be able to log in, create and publish their stories on our free, safe and global platform. They will also be able to read powerful stories shared by their peers across the world.

Connect: Every child will receive consistent support on the platform to a) become an empowered Storyteller and Leader b) connect, collaborate and learn with a global community of young storytellers and leaders

Change: Every child will be able to lead a global movement as a young, empowered Storyteller and Leader, and collaborate with other children to solve our planet’s biggest problems.

What successes has SAL had so far? 

Creation of an online platform: Currently, a Wordpress site has been set up. The site has resources, including story prompts and FAQs, to help children take the first step towards creating a Story. Any child can submit Stories through a simple Google form. 

Feedback system: While submitting stories, every child has the agency to decide if they want to receive kind and useful feedback on their Stories. After they submit, the Stories are proof-read, mildly edited and published. Feedback has been provided via email to children who have opted for the same.

Published Stories: Children have begun creating and sharing their Stories, which have been published here. Many of them are powerful personal narratives. They range from poetry to musical renditions to even illustrations! At SAL, every Story is welcomed. Stories can be created using written words (prose/poetry/script/essay, etc) or images (photographs/drawing/painting etc) or audio-video mediums too (songs/read alouds/video stories). 

Open Mics: At the time of writing, 2 children performed their Stories to applause and appreciation from adults at a virtual Open Mic.

Collaborations: People from across the world have begun reaching out to explore opportunities to collaborate with SAL. SAL is currently collaborating with Storytellers and Educators to design and organise virtual storytelling workshops for children on a pilot basis.

What does SAL need from World Pulse to reach its goals?

I am a Storyteller and Educator. My professional experiences range from working as a journalist in a leading English national daily at India’s capital Delhi to teaching English and Social Studies to children from low-income communities at a school in India’s Maharashtra. 

My experiences with storytelling and teaching have encouraged me to create SAL. 

I need mentors who can help me learn and navigate the volatile nature of social entrepreneurship (especially in a post Covid-19 world) and fully leverage its potential to create large-scale and long-term impact. I need mentorship to build entrepreneurial values, knowledge and skills within myself so that I can transform Storytelling As Leadership into a sustainable global organisation and empower all children to become Storytellers and Leaders. 

The areas where I need mentorship include (but are not limited to) the 6 Ps of organisation development: Proposition, People, Proceeds, Processes, Partnerships, and Promotion.

I also need guidance to build a powerful, user-friendly and immersive platform/interface where engaging tools and resources are created to empower all children to learn Storytelling and create their own Stories in different languages and mediums. This is highly crucial to ensure children with varying learning levels and styles (including those with disorders or disabilities) feel empowered to create their Stories. I also need support to ensure the platform empowers children who don’t have access to the internet so that they are able to learn, create and share their Stories as well.

This story was submitted in response to Become a Featured Changemaker.

Comments 12

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Jill Langhus
May 02
May 02

Hi Sowmya,

This is a great idea. It's like a junior World Pulse:-) What is the intended age range for this platform? Good luck with your application.

Sowmya Swaminathan
May 02
May 02

Hi Jill,

Greetings! I hope you and your loved ones are staying safe. Thank you for your kind words! Yes; SAL is like World Pulse for children in a sense. :) Currently, it is for everyone below the age of 18. I will soon be launching a section on the platform to encourage and provide a safe space for young adults (aged 18-20) to create and share their stories as well. Thank you!

Gratitude,
Sowmya

Jill Langhus
May 02
May 02

Hello there,

Yes, we're doing well. How are you doing?

You're very welcome. It's a great idea. Looking forward to hearing more about it.

You're welcome.

I hope you and your family are doing well, too!?

XX

Sowmya Swaminathan
May 02
May 02

Thank you so much, Jill! Yes; we are doing well here. Thank you. :)

Jill Langhus
May 04
May 04

You're welcome! Great to hear!

Chi8629
May 02
May 02

Thank you for sharing.

Sowmya Swaminathan
May 02
May 02

Thank you for reading!

Chi8629
May 03
May 03

Anytime Sowmya .

Anita Shrestha
May 03
May 03

Thank you for sharing

Sowmya Swaminathan
May 03
May 03

Thank you!

Tamarack Verrall
May 03
May 03

Dear Soumya,
What a wonderful project, to encourage the children to be storytellers. They will carry this through their whole lives. How lucky for the children who have the chance to learn from you.

Sowmya Swaminathan
May 03
May 03

Thank you so much, Tamarack, for your kind words! I learn a lot from these immensely talented children, so it is truly a win-win! :)