These approaches emphasise learning – from the process of narrative construction, to digital audio editing. They ask storytellers to reflect critically and honestly with their personal and social reality, enabling a new awareness of self and others. The approaches rely on substantial co-learning, or collective sense making. This notion of learning as empowerment, and as supporting the capacity to challenge our individual ways of knowing and feeling through collective inquiry – links to Freire’s view that social change begins with individual consciousness-raising.
There is a kind of magic in the creative process that enables a deeper form of honesty and truth in the way that stories are expressed. It is also important to de-mystify the creative process, to make it accessible to all and relevant to every day experiences and feeling. Creativity allows us to explore our world beyond immediate reality and offers us new ways of seeing and understanding, as well as ways to solve problems, to provoke change in ourselves and the world around us.
Many adults have un-learned the capacity for creativity, so one of the aspects of learning inherent in these methods is reminding colleagues of their ability to be creative. This ‘natural therapy’ is extremely powerful. People are bearing witness not only to others’ untold stories, but also to their own, and learning about themselves as much as they learn about others.
Participants can struggle to tell first-person narratives for many reasons, including fear of exposing vulnerabilities, a propensity to be self-critical, or also where people are working towards collective agendas. Yet telling a story in the first person is central to learning, because much of the learning centres on reflecting upon and articulating your own personal transformation. While this is not always easy for participants, many later feel this is one of the most important elements of the process. Stories told in this fashion are often the most compelling for the audience as well.