Stories of Wisdom Found & Shared

Discovering Wisdom…through Story Listening

In 1994, my life changed.  My Granny (the best storyteller I’ve ever heard) died and I picked up her baton and began my journey as a storyteller. But it was also the year I discovered the transformative power of collecting and sharing personal stories. And, that wouldn’t have been possible if it weren’t for Christopher J. Kinman M.SC., M.DIV.  Our paths crossed while working at Matsqui Abbotsford Community Services, I managed the fundraising and public relations department and Christopher was a counsellor working with young offenders and their families.  We soon struck up a friendship around our interest in the power of story.

One day, he invited me to be a guest editor and writer for a journal he produced called Local Wisdom.  The purpose of these journals was to collect ‘real life’ stories (from people who were marginalized in society) and share them, anonymously, with community service providers (e.g. probation officers, school counsellors, social workers, the police, etc.).  And in doing so, provide a platform for these voices to be heard.  I was to interview mothers of young offenders who were reluctant to attend his support groups.  As a former journalist, I welcomed the opportunity to step back into listening and writing, from an objective perspective. While they were hesitant to share their story in a group setting, we hoped they might do so, one on one.  And, after a number of lengthy conversations explaining who I was and what I was looking for, eight women agreed to be interviewed.

I explained the goal was to collect the wisdom they had honed over the years of caring for their children and dealing with social services. At first, they were a little reluctant, but once they realized their advice, knowledge and ‘lived experience’ could help other families they became a lot more comfortable. In fact, most said that they were surprized to learn that anyone would value what they had to offer. The end result was this issue of Local Wisdom,The Other Side of Silence Wisdom of the Mothers

As I look back on that experience, over 20 years ago, I realize it was the starting point of my self-directed research and work into ‘applied’ narrative. I will never forget some of those women or their stories of resilience, courage and most of all, love. And, apart from a couple of pretty lacklustre attempts at poetry by me (haven’t we all written poetry at some point?), the words captured in this journal bring back strong, vivid memories of women who opened up their hearts and told their difficult, personal, stories. I remember how pleased I was to hear from Christopher that a few of these women decided to join his support groups and one in particular became a powerful spokesperson for social change.

Why am I sharing this old publication now? Well on the eve of the Narrative Matters 2016 conference, in reviewing my presentation, I was reminded of this pivotal experience that taught me that the power of story is not always in the telling, but often in the listening.  Listening is a gift…and so many of us carry stories (and wisdom) just waiting to be heard. It’s a gift we can all give.


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“We Are Our Stories” Keynote presentation by Norma at Narrative Matters 2016 Conference in Victoria

If you want to understand how stories and conversations impact you and your community, or how stories have the power to influence future government policies, healthcare practices as well as  everyday life…then you need to attend this amazing conference.

Believe me...Narrative Matters!

Believe me…Narrative Matters!

The University of Victoria and Royal Roads University are hosting international and Canadian scholars in Victoria, June 20 – 23 to present Narrative Matters 2016. This conference, open to the general public, features presentations on how narrative research is transforming people and communities around the world (including South Africa, Japan, India, Australia, Korea, Germany, USA,  Malaysia and Finland).


Check out the program which includes presentations from national and international scholars, acclaimed keynote speakers and an evening presentation by former UN ambassador Stephen Lewis.

Information and registration for Narrative Matters 2016 is available on the conference website. Come for just a day, or stay for all four and enjoy an incredible journey of discovery. Learn how the power of story gathering, sharing and listening is being re-discovered as a way to investigate, describe and understand important aspects of individual and social change.

On Tuesday, June 21, spend the day at the University of Victoria visiting various story stations showcasing Victoria-based narrative research projects that are attracting global attention. For example, vertical narrative: telling stories on Coast Salish totem poles, mapping communities by using stories from the past and present, multi-generational health care practices learned from family stories, a personal story from the frontlines of climate change and, at lunchtime, you can hear my keynote presentation, We Are Our Stories. 

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Hot Off The Press – A free guide to having deep & meaningful “Philanthropic Conversations”.


reading ebookThe Philanthropic Conversation – A Guide for Professional Financial Advisors eBook– was produced by the Canadian Association of Gift Planners (CAGP) in partnership with GIV3 and Philanthropic Foundations of Canada – as a CAGP member benefit.

It was written in response to findings in the The Philanthropic Conversation Research Report indicating Canadians want financial advisors to help them with charitable giving. However, while advisors believed they were providing this service, clients said these ‘philanthropic’ conversations were not deep and meaningful enough.

The guide contains ten articles based on interviews with financial and philanthropic advisors from across Canada. I was honoured to be asked to participate in this project and would recommend the guide as a wonderful primer for anyone interested building more comfort and confidence in having meaningful conversations about charitable giving.


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Storytelling For Non-Profits: A Podcast Conversation

What's Your Brand StoryA month ago, a colleague suggested I have coffee with Marc Stoiber as he thought we’d have lots in common linked to the ‘power of story’.  So, I did and it was an amazing conversation, which led to him interviewing me to create this podcast, Storytelling for NonProfits, on his website, Didn’t See It Coming (which is also the name of his book).

Marc is a brand consultant, entrepreneur, writer and a 25-veteran of the marketing and advertising world – and a really nice guy. He’s won just about every international industry award for his advertising and design and has written for the likes of Huffington Post, Fast Company, GreenBiz and Sustainable Life Media. So our conversation ended up being a very interesting discussion about the similarities and differences branding (through storytelling) in the private and non-profit worlds.

So, why not get yourself a cup of tea or coffee, listen to the podcast and join the conversation?


Posted in Branding, Narrative Philanthropy, Norma Cameron, Organizational Storytelling, Storytelling, The Narrative Company | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Let Me Tell You A Story – Using Stories Strategically in Communications

Norma’s YouTube: Let Me Tell You A Story

Thanks to Dave Traynor from the Canadian Public Relations Society of Vancouver Island for sharing this YouTube video of my opening plenary presentation at Royal Roads University during the recent CPRS Beyond the Hype conference.  It’s not edited and runs slightly over an hour in length (so I’d recommend brewing up a pot of tea or coffee before diving in).  I’d love to hear your comments.


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The Changing Face of Wealth – Women & Philanthropy – Are You Ready?



Change is afoot

Change is afoot in not only the ‘face of wealth,’ but relationally, ‘the face of philanthropy.’ In light of recent research findings (check the link below), it’s clear that the charitable sector will benefit from a thorough review of how it communicates and interacts with their communities, specifically, to ensure they are providing the type of service that will attract and retain women. Consider the following:

  • The first wave of baby boomers reached retirement age in 2011 and over the next few decades, the ‘intergenerational transfer of wealth,’ will most likely rest in the hands of women before being passed along to the next generation
  • the average number of years that a widowed baby boomer will outlive her spouse is 16
  • 70% of women change their financial advisors within a year of their partner’s death (citing disconnection with advisor or unsatisfactory service)
  • The financial sector is ramping up advisor training to shift the focus on ‘big-picture’ planning and jargon-free explanations (research shows women prefer a more holistic approach), in an attempt to retain/attract female customers.

What do you think charities could and should do to respond to this? What is happening at your organization?

Check out the following resources to spark discussions.

The TD Bank Group has released this first-ever Canadian research paper on the topic of women and philanthropy Your Story, Your Future: Time, Treasure, Talent: Canadian Women and Philanthropy as part of an initiative to better understand the overall financial needs, habits and aspirations of Canadian women (please be patient when downloading the report, it may take a minute or two…but worth the wait).

Women’s Philanthropy Institute, Indiana University wonderful website, full of resources and articles.

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Once upon a Time…Adopting a Narrative Approach to your Case for Support

“Storytelling is the most powerful way to put ideas into the world today.” ~ Robert McAfee Brown

If there was one message that came across loud and clear throughout the plenary presentations at the 2014 CAGP national conference it was the importance of knowing how to shape and share stories to celebrate and promote philanthropy.   As a professional storyteller and former journalist – and someone who has been promoting a ‘narrative approach to fundraising’ for years – it made my little heart sing.

It also dovetailed nicelypaint by numbers 2 into the topic I’d chosen for my conference session: Paint By Numbers: The Ultimate Story Script for your Case for Support.  

In my experience, most organizations follow a traditional approach in developing their Case for Support (Case) and create a four-colour, ‘one size fits all’ document. While this approach can work, I believe it often falls short on delivering a compelling and convincing narrative that invites prospects to play a key role in helping the organization’s beneficiaries. Continue reading

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