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Sharing stories to build new ones

Updated: Jun 26, 2020

The first session for Section A of the 2020 LedBy Her fellowship, after orientation, started with a 15-minute zoom walkthrough by one of LedBy’s team members, Ruha. The fellows learned the ways of showing reactions through Zoom tools, but since the reaction of “super like” was missing, Ruha, asked everyone to draw a heart on a piece of paper and fill it with color. This paper heart came super handy whenever we resonated with each other and wanted to show love and kindness throughout the session.

After logging into a cool class participation facilitator, that has been developed by Harvard Professors: “Teachly” we proceeded with a “pulse check”. The “Pulse check” created a space to share our stories from the previous week. The thing that was surreal about this conversation was that all of us had unique experiences over the past week and the intensity of everyone’s emotions was different, but we still came together, successfully, in this session to connect.

Further, LedBy team member, Benjamin provided constructive feedback on the Norms document put together by section A. This document is helping us build expectations with other co-fellows and helping us create the scaffolding for a community that will continue with the fellows after their fellowship has ended. Ruha concluded by emphasizing that we can be more receptive to feedback by actively soliciting it and be better at providing feedback by always presenting solutions. The whole conversation about this topic helped us to critically reflect on the feedback mechanism.

Moving forward, Fatima Salehbhai, a LedBy fellow, presented on “Human-Centered Design”; teaching us through the example of an MRI machine room painted with cartoons and child-friendly drawings. This uplifting room reduced anxiety in pediatric patients and therefore lowered the need for anesthesia!

Next in the line, we had our “Life Graphs Exercise” planned. We created a graph about our lives so far, by plotting some of the highs and lows by drawing on events, places, mentors, people, education, values, and other stories. After three minutes of deep thinking and plotting our life graphs we went into Zoom breakout rooms to share our graphs. We listened to each other’s stories and understood the lives we have had before coming together on LedBy’s platform. Fellows shared their vulnerabilities and strengths. The focus was on respecting and learning from each other’s experiences.

As the Life Graph exercise left us with intense emotions, our workshop facilitator, Sharon D’ Agostino started the next half of the session, with a brief meditation exercise. It helped us to re-center and become prepared for her workshop, titled “Storytelling and Personal Empowerment”. Sharon’s key message was that the “stories which we tell ourselves and others, help us find our place in this world”. As the fellows shared their stories, they conveyed love and resonance through flashing the paper heart on their screens. We learned the difference between empowering and disempowering stories, and our takeaway was to focus on the former. Further, we engaged in writing our default storyline and reflected on the meaning it holds for us. Next, Sharon taught us about empowerment through storytelling and the choices we have in selecting who we are and the stories we tell about ourselves. We reflected and wrote about the parts of our story we want to modify in the future. Using the present tense, we wrote our “aspiring” storyline. Sharon encouraged us to start incorporating our “aspiring story” in the story we tell ourselves and others. We learned to “own” our story and make an active choice about stories we tell about ourselves and recognize the power we own.

The session helped us to uncover the stories we have been living by and the power they hold over defining our being. We reflected on our lived experiences and connected with through shared experiences. The safe environment of the session facilitated us to be vulnerable and find strength in our stories. We practiced storytelling and understood that before becoming leaders and empowering others, we need to empower our voice through re-envisioning our stories.

Shaheen Khan is an M.Phil. Scholar at Tata Institute of Social Sciences and a 2020 LedBy Her Fellow

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