#70) MILESTONE: Story Circle #15, Demo Day #12

Next week we will launch our 15th Story Circle (at University of Maryland) making 75 scientists and communications staff participating in individual Story Circles, with 510 taking part in Demo Days. Some circles have finished but have gotten into narrative analysis so deep they haven’t wanted to quit. It’s effective, however there is one casualty: students and postdocs. Sorry.


THIS WEEK’S UPDATE: This is our weekly update showing circles that are meeting and what’s ahead.



Story Circles is right on track to where we had hoped to be by the end of the year. Last year we developed the training through four prototypes with NIH, USDA and Hendrix University. Now we’re spreading the training.

In particular, we’ve developed four major hot spots — USDA, USFWS, USGS and Genentech. These are the places that have hosted multiple Demo Days and Story Circles with plans for broadening ahead. National Park Service is set to join the group in January with two Demo Days.

Best of all is watching circles finish their 10 one hour sessions and ask to keep going because they are so deeply connected with the process. Story Circles teaches a whole new narrative language that takes a while to fully grasp, but once you do becomes very powerful.

Right now we’re in the thick of a 20 minute video about Story Circles we’re producing with AAAS (American Association for the Advancement of Science) that will be released early next year.


Sorry. We had hoped, along with many others, that Story Circles would be an effective training program not just for professionals, but for students as well. At this point we’re having to conclude it isn’t.

There just doesn’t seem to be the “need or want” when it comes to students. Professionals tend to have a lot of experience with projects that have suffered from poor communication, creating a feeling of need for the training. Or they’ve been hearing for years “you need to do a better job of telling your story.”

But when it comes to students, they seem to be more concerned with “is this gonna be on the exam?” or “are we gonna get credit for this?” or they’re too busy and over-committed. There just isn’t the depth of connection, and without that burning desire that is needed to light up the narrative part of your brain, the training just doesn’t amount to much.  I’m afraid it doesn’t work to shout, “You need to know this for your future!”  Apparently that doesn’t activate the narrative part of the brain..

They also have a tendency to say, “yep, three words: and, but, therefore — we got it, all done, thanks.” Several students have verbatim said that — “we got the three words, we’re all set.” If only it were that simple!