Global Economic and Social Transition Calls for Narrator, Say Changemakers

Global Economic and Social Transition Calls for Narrator, Say Changemakers

Conversations in the Netherlands, Belgium dig into Generative Journalism possibilities

The economic and social transition afoot in the world calls for a narrative capacity that will accelerate and bloom its possibilities. This is the premise of  several gatherings taking place in the Netherlands and Belgium over the next couple of weeks with Peter Pula of Axiom News Canada.

Peter is meeting with programme director for the development of the City of Amsterdam Frank van Erkel, communications advisor Violet Rouwhorst, organizational consultants Russell Kerkhoven and Dries van Gemert and others committed to creating narrative capacity for the transition movement.

For Violet, the transition is about “making connections, and about the realization that changes can start small.

  Violet Rouwhurt

“It’s so easy to connect nowadays, with people all over the world. We don’t have to wait for institutions to make a difference. We can do it ourselves,” she says.

Stories that shed light on what this transition is about include an Amsterdam neighbourhood, de Indische Buurt, where residents have drafted their own currency, the Makkie. People earn Makkies by doing acts of community service and spend them on local items or services, including cinema tickets and supermarket products.

“There is a big transition taking place in society: we were used to hierarchical structures and now it's transforming into more network-related structures. Some call this ‘from pyramid to pancakes’,” says Frank.

“People have more access to information than ever before and can make up their minds about what’s going on in the world more than ever. They can connect in new ways which were never possible. The Internet and social networks are supporting this movement enormously.”

Because of these developments, big institutions are losing influence and communities and movements are setting agendas and leading actions more than ever.

The shift calls for a different government response as well, Frank says. “They have to come out of the silos and operate more in interaction and within those new networks. We can’t ask citizens anymore to participate in our processes — the traditional citizen participation — but we humbly have to ask if we may participate in (their) processes and activities.”

As this transition unfolds, both Frank and Violet see tremendous possibility in a narrative capacity designed to accelerate and bloom those economic and social shifts.

  Frank van Erkel

“What is important is that we build upon each others’ experience,” Frank says. “Therefore we need to know the stories of the people who tried. What did work? What circumstances are essential to making it successful? What are enablers for sustainable results? What are the lessons learned?”

Generative Journalism holds promise as a tool to discover answers to these questions, both Frank and Violet add.

“I'm attracted to Generative Journalism because it uses empowerment and can lay emphasis on pride, what works, how to inspire each other,” Frank says. The approach illustrates “the power of small steps in creating a larger momentum.”

As a communications advisor and former journalist, Violet was already convinced of the power of storytelling, she says, but it wasn’t until she stumbled across Axiom News and the concept of Generative Journalism that she grasped how it could contribute, “in a structural way,” to positive change in both her organization and society.

Violet began championing a Generative Journalism approach through her work in Amsterdam East just over a year ago. There were signs of the transition appearing, she says, but “not everybody felt connected to it and not everybody felt they had to be part of it.”

“Asking people about their hopes and beliefs in this, about their successes and challenges, really helped to make it a joint effort, and (allowed) people see that small steps can be taken, not only by others, but also by themselves,” she says.

As the gatherings take place in the Netherlands and Belgium over the coming weeks, Frank anticipates “learning from others and inspiring each other.”

“We will gain confidence that we are on the right track to take our responsibility and respond to a rapidly changing society with more possibilities,” he says.

“My dream is to connect people within and outside the organization who are using words/stories, to contribute to positive change and to inspire people. Together we can make a difference,” Violet says.

Her hope is that these gatherings will give a “positive boost” to that co-operation, she adds.

Violet also sees huge possibility in connecting with similar efforts in other parts of the world.

“With Axiomnieuws Belgium and Axiom News Canada we’re looking for ways to work together and share experiences, knowledge and stories. The circumstances we see are very alike. People all over the world have to deal with the economic crisis and are looking for ways to make the world a better and healthier place, to connect with one another,” she says.

“We can help and inspire each other and combine forces, for example by sharing stories and setting up a learning network.”

Her highest hopes for Generative Journalism include that in more cities and countries around the world there are people committed to creating narrative capacity for the transition movement. “So the impact will get larger and larger. I hope it really becomes more common in society to talk about what we want more of, about the world we want to see.”

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Writer Bio

Michelle Strutzenberger's picture
Michelle Strutzenberger

Michelle Strutzenberger has been a Generative Journalist and curator with Axiom News for more than 15 years.

She's most grateful for the incredible people she gets to work with every day at Axiom News, as well as the many other amazing folks she's encountered through this work.

"I have always seen the opportunity to do this work as a gift," she says.

Michelle's writing has also been published by a wide variety of other organizations and publications, including the following:
- Abundant Community, an initiative of authors John McKnight and Peter Block to awaken the power of families and neighbourhoods
- PLAN Institute, a network dedicated to enabling families to create a good life for people with disabilities
-.New Scoop YYC, Calgary's news co-op practicing Generative Journalism
- The Canadian Community Economic Development Network
- Nieuwmakers, a Belgian news agency
- Restore Commons, an initiative of Peter Block and friends
- Academy for Systemic Change

Contact Michelle: 705-741-4421 ext. 27 or michelle(at)

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