The Power of Storytelling


Fellows slam.

“I will tell you something about stories, (he said)
They aren’t just entertainment.
Don’t be fooled.
They are all we have, you see.”


— Leslie Marmon Silko (Native American writer of the Laguna Pueblo Tribe)

Over the past two weeks, the Acumen Fellows had the unique opportunity to work with Rives ( an amazing poet and teacher, on story-telling. In the short-term, our goal was to prepare a performance for Acumen’s Investor Gathering.

But working with Rives had a much bigger impact on me, and all of the fellows.

We prepared a group story, with snapshots of how we arrived at the Acumen Fund and why we are committed to the work that we do. I talked about Ayub Ali, a dear friend of mine in Uganda, and his daughter Amal who died of malaria. Wangari shared lessons from her grandfather in Kenya, Trish talked about her Cousin Myla and her parents’ home in the Philippines, and Chris described traveling to Soweto with Bono. John shared the impact of 9/11 on his life, Jawad the experience of leaving his life in the U.S. to commit to work in Pakistan, and Jon the story of his friend Joe from Malawi.

We got to know ourselves and each other better through the experience. We realized the power of good story-telling. I also learned how far I have to go to become a good story-teller, but how important it is to get there.

A theme throughout our training has been the importance of speaking up. As Anthony Romero, Director of the American Civil Liberties Union told us: “Quiescence is the worst thing. Don’t be afraid of the ideas, and articulating them.” Acumen has made an enormous investment in storytelling training for the fellows, and we are committed to telling stories of Acumen’s work – and our personal experiences – this year. Hopefully this blog is a start, as we set out for the field today…

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