Storytelling and Arts to Facilitate Community Capacity Building for Urban Planning and Social Work
- Acknowledging the important role of social ties, we address the call by the American Academy of Social Work to explore innovative approaches to help “rebuild the fabric of frayed social connections”  (p. 8) by exploring arts and storytelling as capacity building work. Moreover, Nissen calls to action a need for more social work and related disciplines to incorporate the arts .
- We discuss the concept of community capacity and empowerment from a public health perspective and explore how a community group could assess the capacity of an arts and storytelling workshop.
- We describe how storytelling can be used to engage in community work and discuss how the unique power of storytelling can be used to facilitate authentic dialogue and foster connections.
- We pilot a storytelling program evaluation and community capacity survey in an effort to provide communities an assessment that they can adapt for gathering evidence-based data for funding requirements.
- We offer recommendations on how planners and social workers can take away for practice a simple storytelling exercise that fostered listening, trust, and connection.
- Expanding on social work’s call, we seek to expand awareness to the planning profession for the need for more capacity building projects to address the challenges associated with social isolation in community work.
2. Community Capacity
2.1. Storytelling as an Asset for Urban Planning and Social Work
Living and working in the roughest section of Chicago, there were two separate occasions that burglars crept into her bedroom while she slept. My aunt awoke to one burglar as he snuck into her bedroom window. As not to wake me while I was sleeping in the room next door, she told the first burglar “Don’t make a noise.” Surprised, he started back toward the window and she said “You’ll be hurt if you go that way. Go down by the stairs and let yourself out.” The first would-be burglar left never to be seen again. For the second burglar, she requested for him to come back the next morning and she would help him find work. He did and she did. [40,41] (pp. 113–114; p. 136)
2.2. Story Bridge Program
- Story—Participants tell stories in pairs, circles, and to the entire group.
- Performance—Participants act out one another’s stories, with options of adding dance and music, to perform for a live audience.
- Affinity—Participants bond with one another as they listen and perform stories while building authentic relationships.
- Collaboration—Participants begin to collaborate with strong rapport and share diverse perspectives.
- Engagement—Participants continue to engage with one another and with community building activities.
When we tell a part of our story to another, and it is not taken as something totally weird but as something that another person can understand, relate to, and accept, we realize that we are not so unusual as we might have thought we were. Our own particular story is then seen as legitimate, as something that is valid and has its own value. We then discover our experience is actually similar to that of other people  (p. 15).
3.1. Facilitator Description of the Lopez Island Workshop
4. Preliminary Results
- One participant commented how the process helped build relationships as it has the “ability to bridge people who may never have encountered or wanted to approach one another in a meaningful, loving way.”
- Another participant stated “It was fun! It taps into something deeper with fellow neighbors and friends that we don’t get to in the day to day.”
- A third respondent reflected it was a way to “learn more about people that I smuggishly thought I knew already!”
Stepping into another person’s shoes and deeply listening to the other. Ability to recognize and compose the arc in the story. Ability to tell someone their story back to them in a meaningful and accurate way.
The workshop focused on building community by sharing personal stories. It opened up a whole chapter in my life that had been dormantly painful for decades. Caution about how powerful the experience can be, especially with its capacity to open emotional wounds.
5. Discussion, Limitations, and Future Directions
Conflicts of Interest
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|San Juan County||Washington State|
|Hispanic or Latino or Spanish culture or origin||1024||6.2%||970,353||12.9%|
|Not Hispanic or Latino or Spanish culture or origin||15,449||93.8%||6,565,238||87.1%|
|Race Alone or in Combination with Other Races|
|Black or African American||207||1.3%||422,547||5.6%|
|American Indian and Alaska Native||348||2.1%||226,088||3.0%|
|Native Hawaiian and Other Pacific Islander||52||0.3%||95,373||1.3%|
|Some other race||417||2.5%||398,348||5.3%|
|Under 18 years||2232||13.5%||1,661,939||22.1%|
|18 years to 64 years||8993||54.6%||4,709,665||62.5%|
|65 years and over||5248||31.9%||1,163,987||15.4%|
|Population 25 years and over||13,414||5,001,943|
|Less than 12th grade||545||4.1%||444,721||8.9%|
|High school graduate or equivalent||2237||16.7%||1,109,016||22.2%|
|Bachelor’s degree or higher||6518||48.6%||1,763,261||35.3%|
|Total Housing Units||14,030||3,148,084|
|Not Hispanic or Latino or Spanish culture or origin||8||100%|
|71 or older||3||38%|
|Monthly Volunteer and Participation Behavior|
|25 or more||1||13%|
|Owned, free and clear||4||50%|
|Owned with a mortgage or loan||4||50%|
|Lopez Island Residence|
|Within the Land Trust||1||13%|
|Outside the Land Trust||7||88%|
|On what days did you participate in the workshop?|
|Pre-Planning, Play-in-a-Day, and Discussion||2||25%|
|Play-in-a-Day and Discussion||6||75%|
|Received training or sharpened skills|
|Experience engaging with facilitators|
|Experience engaging with peers|
|I felt _________ in my ability to identify a clear set of community values.|
|Neither confident nor uncertain||3||38%|
|Story Bridge was __________ for discussing community history.|
|Would you participate in Story Bridge again?|
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Taylor, C.; Wei, Q. Storytelling and Arts to Facilitate Community Capacity Building for Urban Planning and Social Work. Societies 2020, 10, 64. https://doi.org/10.3390/soc10030064
Taylor C, Wei Q. Storytelling and Arts to Facilitate Community Capacity Building for Urban Planning and Social Work. Societies. 2020; 10(3):64. https://doi.org/10.3390/soc10030064Chicago/Turabian Style
Taylor, Crystal, and Qinghong Wei. 2020. "Storytelling and Arts to Facilitate Community Capacity Building for Urban Planning and Social Work" Societies 10, no. 3: 64. https://doi.org/10.3390/soc10030064