Co-creating the Narrative

The project I’m currently working on is a Learning Architecture that will provide our client with a framework for using Social Learning in learning design.

This particular project sits at the crossroads between three stories. The first is the person who has conceptualized Scaffolded Social Learning, the model that this Architecture is based on. The second is the client’s story, a specific agenda for this Architecture and it’s use. It is an articulation of the core strategy, how they work with others. I was fortunate to have been able to meet with the CEO in the course of deepening my understanding of the Learning Architecture’s role and how it fits into the client’s context. In my interview with her, one thing that resonated is that what they are seeking is the creation of a common narrative, negotiated between the Sea Salt Learning story and their own.

The third story is of course my own. My point of view, my experience, my lens.

Working on this project has brought to life for me the tiered narratives  that Julian often talks about.  The Personal, Co-Created and Organisational narratives.

The idea behind thinking of three narratives in social learning is that a co-created narrative emerges when members of a community share their personal narratives. The organization that hosts the community can then listen to that co-created narrative, creating a feedback loop that results in a more responsive, agile organization.

Through this project, I am realizing the work required for the co-created narrative to ’emerge’. The storyteller’s role is essential to this process in the context of a purpose driven community, our purpose being the creation of a Learning Architecture. A co-creative narrative might emerge organically, given enough time, however our community has a specific and time bound goal. As a result, the role that I play, standing at the crossroads, I am now realizing is that of a storyteller.

The storyteller drives the sharing of personal narratives, seeks to discover and understand each personal story an identifies the commonalities. Actually doing this is a more complex process than I had thought. It requires methodical thinking, space for reflection and permission to move the pieces around as I see them fitting together. In and of itself the method is pretty simple. I read the brief, I understood the core strategy that would inform the Architecture, I sought out additional information, to paint a more holistic picture through 10 individual interviews.

I analyzed my interview notes and identified the ideas and concepts that I saw were relevant to the project goals (that’s the feature photo for this post). Then, I classified them  according to the seven sections we had determined would go into the Learning Architecture.


So far, so good. This process is helping me to form an idea of the big picture, both in terms of the client’s narrative and Julian’s. Now, I need to use my own point of view to put them together.

What I have found adds complexity to this storytelling role is that personal stories, whether Julian’s, the client’s or mine, are personal. There are people behind them that believe in those stories, they have a point of view and expectations that are different from each other’s and my own. Their story doesn’t become released into the community to become data. They are attached to it.

Defining a co-created narrative is a negotiation. It requires finding a path through the tension between all of those stories and finding a way to express the commonalities in a way that will be understood and accepted by all.

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