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Weekly round-up – links and stories from across the web

Friday, March 30, 2012 by Marianne Elliott

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First up, I have a new site!

If you are reading this post in a feed, then you may not know that I have a beautiful new website. It’s beautiful thanks to Charlotte Oliver and Kate Harding. It has a completely new book section including a trailer and some of the early reviews.

Maybe most importantly, it’s given me the chance to get clearer about what exactly it is that I do.

I’ve always been very clear on ‘why’ – the driving force behind everything I do is a belief that we can all do good and be well. But the process of weaving together my book, my yoga teaching and my new offerings (like the 30 Days of Courage course) into one new site helped me see the common thread that runs through my ‘what’.

Here’s a little snippet from the About page:

At the heart of every useful thing I’ve ever done was a story. And these days that’s what captures my imagination most of all. How to gather, craft, tell, spread and amplify stories that help us all see ourselves, each other and the future in a new and beautiful light.

I am a storyteller. Above all else, I collect, craft and tell stories.

Whether I’m writing a report on violence again women in Afghanistan, raising funds for a great cause, helping a client share their good work with the world or writing my memoir – my craft, my medium and my passion is story.

Stories are how we come to new understandings about each other, how we change our view of the world, how we teach, and how we learn.

So this week, a weekly round-up of links with a focus on story.


First up, my friend and fellow story-worker, Nick Potter also launched a new site this week. Just as Nick is valued by all who know and love him for his extraordinary clarity, Storypot is a site filled with crystal clear insights into the role of story in creating change.

When I need someone to help me get clarity in my own story, Nick is one of the first people I call on. He’s one of the people I most enjoy collaborating with on story-work, and I heartily recommend him to anyone looking for a skilled storycrafter.


If you haven’t come across them before, check out Storycorps, whose mission is to “provide Americans of all backgrounds and beliefs with the opportunity to record, share, and preserve the stories of our lives.”

I truly, madly, deeply love what these guys are doing and one of my fantasy lives (along with being a satirical foreign correspondent in the tradition of Stephen Colbert) is to do this work – traveling around the country recording people’s stories.

Some of the most popular stories have been animated, including this profoundly moving story from a retired NYC fire fighter about losing both his sons on September 11.

Storytelling Ethics

If you’ve been reading here for a while, you know that I’m pretty deeply engaged with questions about the ethics of storytelling. I explored this topic a bit in relation to the controversy about Greg Mortenson and his book Three Cups of Tea, and then again, in relation to the Kony 2012 video. This week, via Thanks to Jennifer at How Matters, I read this article by Ethan Zuckerman on Mike Daisey (who created ‘The Agony and The Ecstasy of Steve Jobs’), storytelling and the ethics of attention.

Here’s an extract:

A simpler narrative is a more effective one. That’s one of the core arguments made by Jason Mogus in an excellent evaluation of the Kony 2012 campaign, titled “Why your non-profit won’t make a KONY 2012“. Mogus argues, “This is of course the #1 criticism of IC’s work, that they over-simplified (or manipulated) the issue, lacking nuance on the complexity of the situation. But the fact that they made this video for their audiences, not for their policy specialists, is the secret of their success.” He is probably right. Advocacy to a broad audience almost certainly requires simplifying complex narratives.

One of the responses to my book that continues to surprise and please me is that people say they’ve come away from it with a more complex and nuanced view of Afghanistan. As Sam Gregory, Program Director at WITNESS is quoted in Zuckerman article:

Simple is too simple when it perpetuates stereotypes (for example, a ‘rescue’ approach) or reinforces the lack of agency in situations where agency has already been assaulted by the human rights violations themselves. At the root of human rights work is human dignity.

One of my personal ‘bottom-lines’ for Zen Under Fire was that it honour the human dignity of everyone who appears in it, including ex-boyfriends and ‘human rights victims’. You’ll have to be the judge of whether I achieved that.

PS: If you are interested in an update on ‘The Trials of Greg Mortenson‘, you can find a fairly comprehensive one here.

The Best of the Rest

If you haven’t been following my every move (and I actually take great comfort in knowing that most of you don’t, since I make so many false moves), you may not know that as well as a new website and a new book, I have a new course – 30 Days of Courage. I am having so much fun with this course and plan to do a lot more on the theme of courage.

If you are interested in Creative Courage, in particular, you might want to check out this – from Stephanie Levy. I’ll be taking part as a guest in this course along with some of my favorite women, including Tara Mohr.

Also on my list this week was this great post from Alessandra Pigni, of Mindful Aid work. We’ve never met but we have so much in common that I expect one day we’ll bump into each other, sit down for a cup of tea and get up a week later. If I wasn’t already clear that Alessandra is kindred, this would have convinced me:

When I worked for an INGO, I used to carry with me to my missions – and still do – a book called Comfortable with Uncertainty by Pema Chödrön. It was one of my supports when “the shit hit the fan”. I wish all aid workers were given a copy when leaving for a mission as part of their pre-deployment training. – Alessandra Pigni

While we are on the topic of what happens when the ‘shit hits the fan’ on mission, I was intrigued by this article on the positive side to trauma.

And finally, because I can never get enough photographs of Afghanistan, here are some beautiful ‘Photographs of a different side of Afghanistan’ from Larry Towell



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3 Responses to "Weekly round-up – links and stories from across the web"

  1. Clare says:

    Marianne, the new site is beautiful and really evokes you (which is an odd thing for me to say, I know, because we’ve never met!). I love it.

  2. Akhila says:

    Beautiful new website- I absolutely love it! Congrats!

  3. Stephanie says:

    Thank you Marianne for your participation in my course, I’m so honored that you are taking part! And I agree with Clare – your new website is absolutely beautiful! xo

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