Collective Narrative Practices & Innovation Projects

Posted by on Jul 7, 2015 in Uncategorised | 112 comments

The innovative projects which we discuss in this chapter draw on collective narrative practices that are concerned with responding to groups and communities who have experienced significant social suffering and oppression in contexts in which ‘therapy’ may not be culturally resonant. Collective Narrative Practices have a rich history and engage a diverse range of methodologies that can be used with individuals, groups and communities. In this chapter, we will just touch on a few methodologies …


“As counsellors, therapists, psychosocial workers and community workers, stories of hardship find their way to us. In some ways, we are cultural receivers of stories of suffering (Waldegrave, Tamaseses, Tuhaka & Campbell, 2003). And often this suffering is linked to broader injustices: to violence, abuse, racism, poverty, sexism, heterosexual dominance. To be the cultural receivers of these stories brings with it awesome responsibilities; for instance there are responsibilities to comfort and to somehow alleviate hardship. But there is another responsibility that I am hoping we will also engage with. How can we receive these stories and engage with them in ways that not only alleviate individual sorrow, but also enable and sustain local social action to address the broader injustices, violence and abuses in our varying contexts? How can we provide forums for the sorrow, anguish and hardship of the stories that we receive to be transformed into collective actions? I don’t mean grand social actions, I mean local, meaningful, resonant, sustainable, social action or social contributions’

(Denborough, 2008, p. 192)

For a link to the book you can visit Collective Narrative Practice by David Denborough 

The following paper is an example of conversations that have taken place in a number of villages in rural Malawi. Here practitioners engage problems in a personification with one worker playing the role of Mr/Mrs AIDS, who represents HIV/AIDS; and another plays the role of Mr/Mrs CARE, who represents the community. Members of the village are invited to ask questions of these two characters, and a conversation develops. Please click on the link to read about this compelling example of collective practice!

Little by Little we Make a Bundle

In this interview, Paulo Freire describes some of his thinking about oppression, ethical responsibilities and how these shape possibilities for social change. The work of Paulo Freire has influenced the development of collective narrative practices.

Making History and Unveiling Oppression

The Mt Elgon Self-Help Community Project, based in rural Uganda, uses narrative practices to spark and sustain local social action and environmental and economic projects. This video contains some of the stories of the work of Caleb Wakhungu and the Mt Elgon project.



One of the ways in which the field of narrative practice continues to diversify is through innovation projects. These are often the result of collaborations, invitations and challenges. Many of them involve ‘cross-cultural inventions’ and partnerships. You might like to explore some of these examples:

Tree of Life

Life Saving Tips from young Australian Muslims

Healing Stories Partnerships with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Communities

For more projects of this kind you can see the full list here:

Innovation Projects

Many narrative therapists and community workers are now using music and song in their work with individuals, groups, and communities. This page contains songs created during various Dulwich Centre projects both in Australia and overseas, as well as links to find out more about the contexts they were created in.

Songs as a response to hardship and trauma

You can listen to David Denborough discussing the use of song in narrative practice on the radio program ‘Songcatcher’, a Radio Adelaide production. 


For Reflection

Is there an idea or project that stands out to you most at this time?

What about this idea or project has sparked your enthusiasm or curiosity?

In what ways might you begin to experiment with these ideas or methodologies?



What do you think? Have you got an idea that might be interesting to exchange with others? Please let us know and share your thoughts on this chapter below before moving on. Please include where you are writing from (City and Country). Thanks!


  1. I found myself engaged with the idea of sharing the skills of one community with another. I can see how this would increase their sense of capacity as well as their connections. I imagine the reduced isolation would create more hope for change.

  2. The idea or project that stood out for most in this Collective Narrative Practices chapter was in the article Little by Little we Make a Bundle. In particular, personifying the problem of aids and allowing the community to talk about through the medium of drama. In particular, I found it really neat utilizing the two characters of Mr/Mrs. Aids and Mr/Mrs. Carer to address change and create the alternative narrative from suffering to courage.

  3. I feel very inspired by the collaboration of community in understanding challenges and concerns and putting the community at the centre of how to overcome these challenges. It’s so important not to assume one way of thinking, grieving or healing is best – which can be so destructive. A community’s social and cultural past and peoples’ strengths are not sidelines in this section’s stories. I am particularly grateful for reading Healing Stories Partnerships with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Communities. Thank you for allowing us to learn and understand more.

  4. Catherine from NW Western Australia. I was inspired to hear about ‘Little by little we make a bundle’ metaphor. A fantastic visual for remembering an important message and so the facilitation of the message meant that the learning was meaningful for individuals on so many levels.

  5. Hi Maureen from Australia, WA originally from South Africa. I loved the song by Mary Heath regarding domestic violence. This song touched me as this was my story for 23 years. Yes, indeed the question is not why doesn’t my sister just leave, the question should be When will you leave my sister…. alone. I am no longer a victim I am victorious.

  6. Unity as a Sign of Strength
    The bundle of sticks metaphor stood out for me:
    *one stick can fairly easily be snapped, but several sticks bundled together are impossible to break in half: little by little WE make a bundle.
    *1 stick can create a small fire easily extinguished. Many sticks can burn an entire bush. Strength in numbers.
    For peoples who are accustomed to communal living group therapy can be more culturally in tune with the needs of the community. I like the example of how the group would break into smaller, more homogeneous groups (men/women/youth) in order for their voices to be better heard and where they would then document a plan of action.
    Another metaphor, The Tree of Life, intrigued me. Someone mentioned in the comments below that this methodology has faced criticism. Can someone point me to those critiques? A google search doesn’t show any negative reviews as far as I can see.
    Talking about how some problems (cancer) can be meaningless and have no answers resonated with me. There are no answers to “Why?’ So how do we find meaning? Perhaps when the trees of life come together in the forest, families can see how their skills and knowledge can help others “get through the storms” and all is not for naught. Little by little our tress of life builds a forest that makes meaning and creates strength. In the Linking Stories and Initiatives article this concept of unanswerable questions was also addressed. One youth said that asking unanswerable questions is important because it shows respect for the person who has died. The living document of this article reminded me of the Making Sense of Suicide document from a previous module and I find these community documents helpful for all involved.
    Leah, Canadian in Cairo.

  7. There was so much to celebrate in this session. Mr & Mrs aids the Mt Elgan Self Help stories of the children and the creation of a solar panel. The learning to celebrate with traditional dance. The stories from the indigenous communities were and are inspirational. I am learning so much from these sessions. Thank you to all who have contributed.

  8. Before studying this chapter, I had already searched around to find details of “Tree of Life”. While, found more about it that lead me to implement one in my own practices. Thanks for sharing all these and look forward to gain more experiences for it.

  9. Anita from Waikato in New Zealand. I have been part of an on-line mum/step mum community for about 9 years now. While it isn’t set up to run on narrative therapy principles, a big part of the support offered is about challenging the narrative. It’s about helping each question our presumptions and assumptions. This community has evolved to become a group of friends committed to ‘owning their sh*t’ and becoming people who challenge their own narratives, along with supporting our friends to do the same. I think there can be a great value in exploring on-line communities and support groups. There is always a danger of these groups becoming echo chambers and spaces where people become more entrenched in their narratives, narratives that are perhaps not serving them as well as they could. Looking at how we can embrace narrative therapy principles and practices in an on-line community is a big part of how I want to develop my practice.

  10. In my original culture, people are not familiar with the concept of therapy, however, still have a lot of trauma in their history and cultural oppression. This collective way of working with narratives appear beneficial for my people’s group to overcome their dominant narrative.

    I am currently making effort to connect to a narrative practitioner in my own culture for a possible new project. I hope this goes well and I can contribute to the recovery of my community.

  11. Singapore.
    The project “Little by Little, We Make a Bundle” struck me as powerful for communities who are facing external issues which threaten/ harm their communities.
    For example, urbanization has impacted Ulaanbaatar’s agrarian economy, and many are struggling to find employment. Some who fail inadvertently turn to alcohol for solace, and this in turn affects a whole generation of youth who need adults to guide them through this confusing time.
    Framing these challenges as external events may help them take a step back to assess what is happening to their communities, and help parents and children alike to look hard at options/ creative ideas so that good healthy choices can be made while they figure out how to adapt and overcome the challenges

  12. Pedro (Spain)
    The project that catches my attention is the tree of life. In my opinion, an incredible way to connect the person with his roots and likewise the rest of people inside of the community. I think that a way to work with this could be using the tree of life in jails, with prisoners. We tend to think that because they did something wrong they do not have feelings, emotions, wishes and, of course, hope. So, it could be a fantastic experience to use the tree of life inside of a prison and connecting prisoners with their origins and also within the system. I am wondering what this could bring?

  13. Joy in the Wheatbelt, WA.
    I am really struck by the ability for Collective Practices to cross to larger groups of people. So often counselling is an individual work for a single person or a couple. This can extend sometimes to a family but so often trauma and problems that impact the individual are communal and have a much broader reach. An individual can work through things on his or her own but I can see the potential for larger change that could come with collective practices like these.
    An example of this is from the project in Uganda where when only one child was sponsored, that this child would then be able to make a gift to the other children in the family. This is a physical example but I think it could extend to emotional or spiritual gifts as well.
    Another gem that I pulled out from this section was from the interview with David Denborough. When he talked about “rescuing the words” I was reminded of the role of the counsellor in this practice. Instead of rewriting or giving someone different words, the goal is to pull out, repeat or “rescue” the words that the individual or community are speaking or using. This was also practiced in the Uganda project when the outsiders gave their perspectives but used the words that they were hearing from the community. There is something amazingly powerful in this seemingly simple practice.

  14. Hi all, Cordet from the UK again! I have once again enjoyed listening to and reading these innovations. I was surprised to see the tree of life metaphor here, which I recall being used in a conference that I went to a year or so ago, and remember then being inspired around service user involvement in the development of service user involvement in the UK. It was really interesting to see how it was developed, and to engage with narrative practices in a broad, community based manner. The projects were inspiring to me as they seem to be approaches to ensure that collective voices are heard, and how to engage with, and respect a broader range of culturally different groups. I felt particularly gifted to have the opportunity to witness some of these different interventions and was in awe of their creativity.

  15. Hello All;

    It’s Shane again, writing from the Okanagan Valley in British Columbia, Canada. The idea that stood out the most for me was the song writing/playing. I find it interesting that this would be the stand out project for me, as I don’t have any musical capability so I cannot transform this idea into action on my own. However, what I really liked about it, and the rest of this module, was the demonstrated scalability of the Narrative process. It can work for individuals, small groups, larger communities, and as demonstrated by the “Song for Australia” it has the potential to resonate at a national level. This is level of flexibility I have not encountered with other modalities.

    In all honesty, I doubt that I will action any sort of song writing (and definitely no singing) in the immediate future. However, I will keep this idea lodged away for the day when I am collaborating with people possessed of the necessary skills.

  16. Very inspired and energized by the work David Denborough shared about songwriting and narrative practice. As a social worker/music therapist I have frequently used songwriting as a practice and found it very powerful. Now thinking of it through the lense of narrative practice really opens up new ways of approaching this with and makes me feel more connected to others who are using songwriting in their work. I’m very grateful to Dulwich Centre for making this resource available.

  17. Ann from Ireland.
    I am a big fan of Freire and was really inspired by his idea of a pedagogy of desire. We have a homelessness crisis in this country at the moment. This is due to a neo-liberal housing policy of over dependence on the private sector for housing. This marginalizes those who cannot afford to access housing in this way. We have seen an increase in men and women, young and old living on the streets. We have families living in hotels and ‘hubs’ and their is a concern for the mental well being of the parents and children living in these circumstances. There is a fear now that homelessness is becoming ‘normalized’. I think this idea of a pedagogy of desire is an excellent idea to make it clear that living without a home is not normal it is a social, historical, political and economic event. We need to explore the reasons for people being on the streets and discuss with the people living without homes, their wishes and desires and what needs to be done. I do not believe that people aspire to live on the streets nor do I believe that it should ever happen. The saddest thing I heard from a man living on the streets in Ireland was ‘If I don’t wake up in the morning, problem over’. I am interested in getting involved in a community based research project with people experiencing life without a home and hearing about their wishes and desires and as Freire says ‘creating a context in which street people can rebuild their wishes and desires’.

  18. Amandine expatriate in Ankara, Turkey, Life coach in education and teacher
    Is there an idea or project that stands out to you most at this time?

    The tree of life project stands out; in fact, I learned initially about narrative practices from this project.

    What about this idea or project has sparked your enthusiasm or curiosity?
    I love the symbol, first of all. In Turkey where I currently live, it is a powerful symbol. With the environemental crisis that we know nowadays, I think it is very relevant.

    In what ways might you begin to experiment with these ideas or methodologies?
    I loved the idea of creating a song about our streghts and resilience. Im sure I will try it with my clients.

  19. Paulo Friere makes an interesting point about education no longer being seen as formation, just as training. While elevating the idea of freedom, it does appear as though the dreams and hopes of the individual believer become subjugated to the mass, whether in small communities or large. Within such a system, ‘legalism’ can counteract ‘faith’, forming a spirit that is biased towards actions (externalized vain rituals), which appear ‘more correct’ than words regarding hopes and/or dreams. The environment in which this nurturing occurs is important: a judgmental, harsh atmosphere creates critical, carping people, whereas an atmosphere of nurturing and care gives people the space to intelligently question concepts which may just be social prescription.

    When something goes wrong in a community, whether, for example a family, or a church community, foundations can become shaky. The hope and faith of many is called in question and members tend to isolate themselves with others who feel the same as they do. The only way to prevent a fracture in the ‘body’ is to communicate in an open manner. In this a remembering of the how, what and why this community gathers is reinforced. It is good to learn to know that when one member of a close community suffers, all the members suffer. As with the tree of life projects, I use a ‘seed of truth’ metaphor, which has developed through the marriage of creative writing, art, narrative therapy and art therapy. Externalizing and the witness of the drawing give a voice to the many unshakable foundations we actually have in our lives, and the truths which govern the setting sun or the genetic information contained in a seed. Such knowledge is comforting, a stable foundation on which a community can build a house of hope, which will not be subjected to every wind of change. Music too is an instrument of intensity, capable of producing penetrating emotional redirection and awareness.

    • Hello my name is Tom from Bristol UK. I can’t find a way to make any direct comments for some reason but I am able to respond to Cheryl and her interesting comments, so I will do that instead.

      Paulo Freire reflections in ‘Making History and Unveiling Oppression’ were insightful. Thank you for your additional comments which I also found useful. It was refreshing to frame social injustice through a bigger narrative of the prevailing neo-liberal story and ask how can we be writing alternatives in our communities.

      I will be adopting the Tree of Life project in a refugee scholarship programme I am involved with. We want to nurture the individuals, tackle the isolation they experience and draw them together as a group, it seems like an excellent exercise to do this as it is multi-faceted and well structured. I like your inclusion of the ‘seed of truth’ metaphor in that exercise.

      I was inspired by the Mt Elgon Self-Help Community Project – the way that the community had reframed the role of the sun and the wind in their communities, linking the efforts of the young people with their ancestors was profound.

  20. carmen from sydney australia, I loved the tree of life idea and have shared it with a few of my colleagues, am thinking of trying it out in a community group I run. I was also very inspired by vikki reynolds’s video.
    btw I couldn’t find the radio program via the link though.

  21. Sherri from Melbourne, Australia here. I found all of the projects inspiring and heart-warming, and I think that the essence of empowering people to find answers and strength within themselves and their community is a great foundation for any project or initiative.

    I just wondered if anyone has experiences of working with interpreters when taking a narrative therapy approach and how they have found this?

    Secondly, there was a specific issue that cropped up amongst clients who had migrated to Australia and presented with pain and injury as a primary diagnosis, but were referred for support with symptoms of depression and anxiety (potentially PTSD also). Are there some good narrative resources on pain management and links between physical and mental health that are available or examples of initiatives targeting these issues with people from a narrative perspective?

    Thanks for such a richness of resources and materials you’ve provided here.

  22. This is Paddy Farr again from Eugene Oregon USA. As I read through the various projects and writings in this module, I was reminded of what drew me Narrative Therapy: the focus on anti-oppression politics and critical theory through story. I was reminded of my earlier work in the anti-violence movement through social-political-community organizing for survivors of domestic violence, sexual assault, discrimination, hate violence, police brutality, migration trauma and prison slavery. These efforts culminated in art and protest by and for survivors in Tucson Arizona USA where the stories of survivors became the narrative basis for political action. In my current practice, I have integrated writing and song about the loss and struggle involved with drug use, homelessness and psychiatric survival into the formation of punk rock music therapy. Every week we come together as a collective to play punk music as reminiscence, to write punk rock music about our past and to transversally eliminate the boundaries between clinician and patient. This module was especially important for me to re-realize the importance that the narrative has on my work.

  23. Hello,
    The Mt Ego Self-help community project was particularly of interest to me as I have not thought about linking narrative practices to social and economic development before. The steps which the project offers the community are also very practical. It is astonishing to find out how we can work towards empowerment and establish self-determination of social groups and community using this technique.

  24. I really like the Tree of Life documents, particularly the reflection on our roots, skills, directions and relationships. I can see myself using this activity in a my current context working with young people, who often, with their limited life years, can get so engulfed by their current dominant story as its presence has sometimes been for a large chuck of the lives. I can see you people responding really well to the reflection on their roots and the distances and directions they have come already in their lives.

  25. Sue from Canberra, Australia. Loved the Mount Elgon project with its focus on reliance and strength. How empowering for this community to be able to speak their hopes and dreams and then work towards realising them.

  26. I’m from New Zealand. My role involves working in therapeutic ways to support change within families. Although we hope to see change take place within communities it may take decades before significant change can be seen. I was really struck by the enormous potential when whole communities are involved in working towards change. The collective sharing of knowledge and skills has enormous strength. This was reiterated for me by the wonderful use of a bundle of sticks to show that each stick is so much stronger when brought together into a bundle.
    The Tree of Life and the Mt Elgon Community Project resonated for me in the way they brought together the past, present and future. I loved the way a “rich textural heritage” was created in the Mt Elgon project by asking the people where their hopes and dreams had come from; who had passed them on.”Raising heads above the clouds” is something I will use in my work.

  27. My name is Ivan Alejandro Rodriguez Santarriaga, and I’m From a City in Mexico named Juarez!

    I really liked this Narrative Therapy Chapter because of it’s Community projects. I specially engage with the ”Little by little we make a bundle” paper, because of the personification the facilitator made about HIV and Mr. Care, to create an ongoing conversation with the participants struggling with those health conditions. It made me think on how can I apply this way of dealing with serious problems in my context and community, leading me to the conclusion and desire of working with drug related problems.

    In my community, located in Mexico, the drug related problems inbetween young people are constantly prevailing, many times because of a lack of work and educational opportunities, so, in this regard, translaping the Little by little we make a bundle ideas into the context of problematic drug use and abuse is appealing to me: Externalizing the ”Drug consumption” and personifying the ”willingness to leave the drugs”! I think that in creating a conversation and a safe place for young people to express their concerns, likes and dis-likes about drug use, and peripheral things that sustain the usage may be a very good idea to try to analyze new possibilities in to how to relate one self to life…

    Alex From Mexico

  28. I am writing from Vancouver, BC. I have really enjoyed reading about collective narrative practices, and I think my initial reaction to it says a lot about how rare this kind of work is in therapeutic work. I think the idea of communities banding together and sharing their resources of healing with one another to be beautiful, and I kept being struck by how little work it would be for the therapist to allow these groups to share with one another. In the past I worked at a school with autistic children and the approach was so directive, that the idea of taking a step back and allowing people to share with one another instinctually gave me a feeling of slight anxiety, as if I should “be doing more.” I think this says a lot about how we are trained to lead the therapeutic process, and although how directive we need to be varies between contexts, this reaction confirmed what some of these training sections have been saying about the agenda of the therapist and how it can stifle expression and exploration for the one in therapy.

    I can speak from personal experience about the power of collective narrative practice as well, although I did not realize until now that I have been a part of one of these practices. Years ago I was asked by my therapist to join a panel of adolescents and young adults who had grown up in high conflict divorce households, and the event was attended by psychologists, therapists, lawyers and judges because they wanted to hear experiences from the child’s point of view. At the time I imagined this experience to be about helping the field, but I remember even without going with the intention of therapeutic growth how beneficial it was for me. It was a place where my experiences involving pain and confusion had value for others, and that knowledge provided a very profound feeling of validation and respect in my experiences. This knowledge gives me a sense of hope in using collaborative narrative practice in the future.

  29. I am in Dublin, Ireland and I enjoyed reading about the Tree of Life projects and was interested that it could be used so effectively with adults and children. The importance of the forest appealed to me as a way of highlighting the value of our community and family and friends. One of the biggest difficulties people often face is a feeling of isolation and feeling they are not alone can be very healing. Using the roots to help explain why the person is where there are allows their story to be heard but it becomes clear that this is only one piece and there is a lot of room for alternative stories.

    I was also interested to hear how songs were being used to strengthen people and their stories. Music is so powerful and we given its potency we don’t use it enough to help us to feel understood and less isolated.

  30. I was deeply moved reading how people face their loved ones, who are going through hardship, with so much love and care. And I am mourning that so many (young) people all around the world are facing hardship due to the effects of patriarchy, colonialism and other social, political, economic or cultural inequalities. I was pleased reading about so many different innovative projects and I am still listening to the Friday Talks. As I am also working with communities, I have a better picture now how collective narrative practice can be used in commmunity work.

  31. I was particularly taken with the community conversation with Mr/Mrs AIDS and Mrs/Mr CARE. I love how the concepts were externalized and personalized in a culturally sensitive and appropriate way. I can see a great deal of applicability in a community setting (potentially even incorporating some ‘process’ in address community dynamics such as discrimination) but also in more micro practice. I’m thinking about potentially exploring the role-play idea in therapy with children in acting out concerns, such as, “naughtiness” or “trouble” and interviewing the child or parents while they play “trouble” or “James without trouble.”

  32. Is there an idea or project that stands out to you most at this time?
    I really enjoyed reading and learning about the project involving the Tree of Life.

    What about this idea or project has sparked your enthusiasm or curiosity?
    I thought the idea of placing the past, the present, and the future together on a Tree of Life design would make it clear where the children are and where they wanted to go. And having this design in front of them could only be beneficial. It seems to me, and I have done this myself as well, that most people can tend to float through life without much of a plan nor a record of what they have learned and how to implement that into their lives for the future. By laying it out in this way, it might help the children strive towards a goal to better themselves. And whether they reach that goal is beside the point. It is the heading of a direction that is beneficial.

    In what ways might you begin to experiment with these ideas or methodologies?
    I might try to create my own Tree of Life for myself for the previously mentioned reasons as well as encourage those around me to do the same. And then see if there were any effects on the person’s as well as my own growth and development.

  33. My name is Glen. I live in Newcastle, Australia.
    Is there an idea or project that stands out to you most at this time?
    A couple of months ago I completed a two day training course on the topic of domestic and family violence. Following this I invited staff from “Caries Place” (Domestic Violence and Homelessness Services in the Newcastle and Hunter areas) to come to a meeting at my place of work to talk with us about their services. Two women from the service did a good job providing information and valuable education about the link between family violence and homelessness. The projects that I read about in the on-line course very much reminded me of the work of the staff at Carries Place. What really impresses itself on me is the overlap between narrative ideas and the philosophy of Carries Place having to address patriarchal social structures, and have politics in mind. One of the staff mentioned “fighting the good fight”. The work that they are doing (and the sheer scale of it) on such a tiny budget is humbling for me, indeed.

    What about this idea or project has sparked your enthusiasm or curiosity?
    My professional training is in psychology, which tends to localise problems internally. I find it refreshing to keep in mind that serious problems such as domestic and family violence have their linkages to power structures and social inequities. In particular, giving women a safe place as an option seems so common sense but it takes the advocacy and courage of these women to make it happen. I perceive that there is so much inertia in our community regarding these issues.

    In what ways might you begin to experiment with these ideas or methodologies?
    One thought I have is that I am more sensitised to power and the possibility of violence in partner and family relationships. It is one of those topics where the more I understand, the more I am able to perceive. I much more often suggest to women to consider their experience from the point of view of domestic and family violence. I perceive that the conversations with women have changed toward a more practical, grounded basis, in addition to empathic support. There is so much more to understand in this area of work…
    Another aspect of this chapter that resonated for me was “Songs as a response to hardship and trauma”. People seeking assistance have related to me that particular songs were important to them and a couple of people have brought in their guitar and sang their own compositions. A person who is consulting with me at this time has written a whole book of poetry that describes his encounters with alienation, marginalisation and despair. These are so important for people and honouring their creative expression is a great part of the work that I have the privilege of doing.

  34. My head is spinning as I spent the afternoon reading Freire as I listened to Silvia Frederici. It was a real treat to engage with these difficult and immense challenges. Lots of big names. Like Deleuze and Guattari who critique the tree and offer up a rizome instead. The tree of life has come under a lot of criticism but perhaps I will do one as a document. Rolnik. I really like the resistance Freire offered to normalisation that is so much a part of neo liberal global capitalism. It is an instrument of repression and violence. I was struck by the repeated references to food production , consumption and impoverishment – and practices of collectivism. I think I was struck by a kind of jump or leap that was being made from the private self to the collective and community – or the commons. And I found Reynold’s resisting calling out about community, activism and respect. I struggle socially and therefore I struggle with respect and self respect – and it is manifest in community hatred and self hatred. Perhaps this is in fact more common than I think – many struggle with falling short, falling down, back sliding, relapse and going against their values. I think I would like to work on a document about this. One area I struggle in is private housekeeping – a labour the Frederica critiques in terms of collective work and gender – and may I add disability, racism and poverty. I really liked Freire’s critique of charity as I engage with a number of so called charities to meet basic needs like food and clean clothes. The labour of reading has me thinking about cooking -communal cooking, but also reducing waste, and fanzines about yoga and being involuntary, and to keep drawing. I struggle with the falling down of anger – a kind of stuckness but it is social as I rage against being disadvantaged and being excluded and marginalised an oppressed – and I struggle and resist the oppressive power that my anger encounters like police and mental health workers and exclusions from community organisations and school. That kind of anger is pathologized and now we have the regulation movement that seeks to regulate with evangelical zest as in yoga in marginalised settings and equine assisted therapy for delinquent students. I often also get angry in therapeutic settings and it leads to rejection or exclusion. Try as I might – I have not had much luck with narrative therapy but as stated those spaces to socially enage with and resoist personal problems that are hard can be small and the openings to hope and healing close as fast as they open – and when we find these sanctuaries or refuges we as often encounter violence and repression. I like the way Frederici talks about political violence and repression and the impoverishment of numerous communities around the world – and since the intervention options in Aboriginal remote communities are limited. Their artists – many women – are now working under slave like conditions. And once more I stir up Frederici’s critique of labour and gender and marginalisation as slavery in the global economy.

    • re: #13: Art Fisher and Nancy MacDonald

      Hello, I’m Sue from Essex, UK and I found listening to this radio show on your site was inspirational. I particularly liked the way they talked about starting off and how they came to be where they are now. They recognised their privileges and what more needs to grow without becoming overwhelmed or disheartened, staying with the project.

      • In what ways might you begin to experiment with these ideas or methodologies?

        I’ve been experimenting for a while and now I want to liven up reflective practice with other agencies’ staff.

  35. In what ways might you begin to experiment with these ideas or methodologies?

    I like the idea of using songs in a therapeutic context, Instead of asking the client how they are feeling, I may ask them what song resonates with their current feelings? or ask them to find a song for homework that fits their current mood.

    Music is very powerful and I believe it is a very underrated and innovative therapeutic tool. I really enjoyed listening to the songs that people had created as part of their recovery or response to a certain action.

  36. Another great module which I thoroughly enjoyed. Loved the Mr.and Mrs Carew initiative was great in reducing blaming practices and the silencing caused by stigma and reducing the feelings of failure and isolation. I have always loved anything by Paulo Friere so his contribution in terms of Making History and Unveiling Oppression was great to read especially about how the Neo Liberal discourse being about training rather than formation. Tree of life very useful as it as it gets people to speak about their ‘roots; – where they come from, their skills and knowledge, hopes and dreams – the trees can all come together to form a forest which can weather storms. The Life saving Tips from Young Muslims and the way narrative therapy can be used in traumatised communities such as the Aboriginal Community was also very useful. In terms of my own work with Sexual Abuse Survivors I think the Mr. and Mrs. Care initiative dealing with Aids would be useful as sexual abuse is seen to be shameful. Tree of life would also be useful to show despite adverse life events people have still managed to do things with their life that are useful and often inspiring.

  37. The story about the Mt Elgon Self-Help Community Project is so moving and compelling. While I certainly believe that tapping into the intrinsic, hidden expertise is a critical foundation for change, I do think it is also helpful to learn new skills our cultural background may have not introduced us to. I know in my own life, healing and change is a combination of both – learning new perspectives, and tapping into my internal strengths.

  38. Quite often people come from different cultures, with different experiences, however when such people come together to share their expertise, the cultural gaps will be covered and the richness of coming together to work as a community or communities is always greater. Together Everyone Achieves More (T.E.A.M).

    The innovative projects were a good example for collective narrative practices that are concerned with responding to groups and communities who have experienced significant social suffering and oppression in contexts in which ‘therapy’ may not be culturally resonant. Collective Narrative Practices have a rich history and engage a diverse range of methodologies that can be used with individuals, groups and communities.

  39. Hi from London, UK. I have designed a training course around music and mental health and watching the video on Mt Elgon project and then looking at the webpage about ‘songs as a response to hardship and trauma’ has given me an idea to amend the course for the better. I realise it would be important to build in some time on the course for participants to share their stories about how they have used music to help cope and/or heal from hardship and trauma, rather than me just presenting the ideas. Thank you!

    I also like the idea of the Team of Life workshop and am thinking about how I can adapt it to the workplace in an organisation that uses different teams of people.

  40. I love what Paulo Freire said/wrote: ‘Being in the world means to change and recharge the world, not adapt to the world’. I find this concept so thrilling and empowering. Such a courageous stance.

  41. My name is Ivan Alejandro Rodriguez Santarriaga, and I’m From a City in Mexico named Juarez!

    I really liked this Narrative Therapy Chapter because of it’s Community projects. I specially engage with the ”Little by little we make a bundle” paper, because of the personification the facilitator made about HIV and Mr. Care, to create an ongoing conversation with the participants struggling with those health conditions. It made me think on how can I apply this way of dealing with serious problems in my context and community, leading me to the conclusion and desire of working with drug related problems.

    In my community, located in Mexico, the drug related problems inbetween young people are constantly prevailing, many times because of a lack of work and educational opportunities, so, in this regard, translaping the Little by little we make a bundle ideas into the context of problematic drug use and abuse is appealing to me: Externalizing the ”Drug consumption” and personifying the ”willingness to leave the drugs”! I think that in creating a conversation and a safe place for young people to express their concerns, likes and dis-likes about drug use, and peripheral things that sustain the usage may be a very good idea to try to analyze new possibilities in to how to relate one self to life…

    Alex From Mexico

  42. Hello Course Colleagues

    Coming into this chapter through David Denborough’s opening quote and the reminder to receive the various cultural stories of hardships as platforms for local action, and then to be led to Paulo Freire’s article kept me grounded in the reading and listening of the various articles, projects and songs in this chapter.

    Freire’s words through his notion of Critical “Pedagogy of Desire” resonated deeply with me: “being in the world means to change and re-change the world…to intervene in reality…creating the context for people…generate in the people political dreams, wishes and desires”.

    In this light, the opening premise rings true, i.e., conventional notions of “therapy” may often not be culturally resonant, and that various collective narrative practices unique in themselves may be available to us if we are open and present to receive them in their integrity.

    How exciting and powerful the use of role-playing in “Little by Little We make a Bundle”, to draw out, externalize and give voice to, in a collective and communal way, the story and impact of HIV/AIDS.

    The Characters of CARE and AIDS, and the drama that ensues reminds me of the use of Global Cinema as a Narrative Practice that I use with urban teachers. Here we have drawn on the South African film (in Northern Sotho language): Life Above All, where Chanda, the 12 yr old protagonist, allows us to witness through her eyes a variety of narrative and phenomenological themes: Family Love and disintegration; Church/Community support and breakdown; Shame, abuse and prostitution when children are left orphaned; entrenched contrasts and mistrusts of traditional and modern medicine and taboos; missed education opportunities, etc. Chanda becomes our “senior partner” in a narrative collective practice as she guides us through her narrative emplotments and resolutions.

    As I went through the various projects, each one of them offered me ideas that I could use in my own setting. I was particularly taken by the “Ocean of Depression” submission by Afghan/Central Asian refugee youth and by the Life Savings Tips by Young Australian Muslims. In both cases I was drawn to how much their “historical consciousness” and the traditional concepts of family and community comes to their aid as they grapple with the various traumas and challenges in their lives.

    This was an “eye-opening” chapter for me and my practice. Thank you.

    Munir – Vancouver, Canada

  43. Hi, Lindy here from Heathcote, Vic, Australia. Like in ‘Sugar’ I really loved the use in Malawi of personifying HIV/AIDS and the care of the community into characters. A great way for people to decide who they want to team up with, whose ‘purposes’ they want to serve. And the physical metaphor of sticks – stronger in a bundle than alone – is extremely powerful. The movement I currently work within is very word/literature based, and this has challenged me to wonder how we could be more creative in facilitating learning and reflection with the use of drama, symbol, and song. Helping communities use song as a vehicle to tell their stories and express their strengths, aspirations and commitments is something I’ve seen up close through Somebody’s Daughter theatre company in Victoria’s women’s prisons. It seems a far more empowering way of having your story heard, than simply telling it individually which seems more vulnerable to me. My workplace (mental health related) has just begun a community choir for our participants, so hopefully this will begin to release the creativity and deepen the solidarity that can come through collective creative expression.

  44. (From France)
    I’ve found some similarities between some of the projects described in this chapter (particularly the Mt Elgon project) and Appreciative Inquiry. They both rely on positive foundations and focus on dreams.
    I look forward to studying the next chapter…

  45. I have utilised the Tree of Life in direct work with individuals but have never had the opportunity to use it with a community or group. This may be interesting to explore in some of my work with Post Adoptive Children but also discussing potential use with refugee and asylum seeking children moving into the area (NW London, UK).

  46. Hello, here Diana from Bogotá, Colombia. I work at an educational context, and for me it has been a project that I have in mind to star groups with parents and teachers, in order to promote places in which they can listen to others and also share their stories and experiences. Here in Colombia, I believe groups are not a tool yet, actually it is difficult to find therapists who take the risk of working with groups with a collaborative perspective. So, I believe this is a big challenge in my context, and I fin very important to have always in mind a local perspective in order to take into account the needs of each context.Thanks!

  47. London, Ontario, Canada. I am enthralled with the power of story. I have been a part of patient self management collective story projects where people with chronic disease share in their success of disease management. I will continue to use this method in my nutrition counseling groups to have us be collective inspired for change.

  48. Seattle, USA. I had never really thought about using therapeutic ideas in the context of engaging a whole community in terms of positive social change. I found this quite interesting. I like that one aspect of this technique was goal-oriented, and encouraged work towards goals.

  49. interesting article on Friere, what I got from this was his view on critical education. Friere’s method of critical education is described in terms of Critical pedagogy, a teaching method that helps in challenging social oppression, customs and beliefs. Leads to questioning society on their views of the role of education in society. This is how I understood it maybe someone can elaborate on it.

  50. Hi everyone, I come from Strathmore (in Alberta) Canada. In reading the article discussing the CARE initiative I was greatly intrigued. I found it to be a very interesting way to bring the community into involvement and encouraging them to take charge of making change and understanding why change is needed. One thing I do wonder is how this would play out in a different context, such as in Canada where the culture is more individualistic and less focused on community. I do believe that community is needed and feel it is something that has been lost in the recent individualistic push to survival. I really enjoyed this lesson through the encouragement of the various ways innovative methods can take, helps me feel that I can change/create methods based in a Narrative approach that are specified to my locale of an individualistic but small town community.

  51. Hi, I’m Fleur from Brisbane. I found the sharing of stories between communities in Port Augusta and Arnhem Land quite profound to read and I feel very grateful to those communities for sharing these stories with the wider community. What a beautifully responsive process – the way that stories shared prompted more stories. I really got a glimpse of the power of outsider witnessing and I feel really excited about the potential in these practices. It sounded like such a gentle, healing process and must have been very moving for all involved. The poems written by community members towards the end were very beautiful. I love the metaphor of being lost in the darkness and hearing the sound of the frogs, guiding people to the water. It’s inspiring to me to read about people being patient, thorough and really listening to each other, really wanting to understand one another and allowing the space for relationships to unfold.

  52. The notion of being cultural receivers of suffering is intriguing to me. The sense of linking the understanding of someone’s difficulty to their conditions and they society they inhabit is relevant to my work with older adults. Their loneliness, isolation, disability, and mental health history all have a context. I was inspired by the authenticity of building transformative “therapies” out of the strengths, values, and knowledges that already exist in communities. There is something liberating about the notion that therapies might not be universal or contextless. That therapeutic effectiveness might depend on more than the characteristics of the therapy, but also require attention to the person, their context, their society, their history. It means that change (or non-change) is not due solely to the therapist or the therapeutic fidelity.

    I am interested in experimenting with paying closer attention to the histories of the older adults I work with, in order to understand their needs better.

  53. I have enjoyed this communities section as it has reminded me of the many benefits of working within and with communities rather than just individuals (CBT, a mode I often work in, tends perhaps to focus a lot on the individual and their inner world). The metaphor of a bundle of sticks being stronger and more difficult to break than an individual stick really resonated with me about the power of working together with a larger sets of skills and knowledges. It has inspired me when I return to work to do more community outreach work.

    • Australia. Little by little we make a bundle, made me think that it could perhaps even be added to my work with couples, particularly addressing relationship conflict through a role play of the problem, just an idea.
      The tree of life can be applicable in groups and individually, it emphasises on strengths, produces hope and confidence and even self belief – it can be empowering as seen in the chapter. I can use the tree of life as a metaphor to work with children who are/have been experiencing parental conflict post separation.

  54. Little by little we make a bundle was a wonderful example of the strength of unity. The opportuntity to make the exercise interactive with breaking the stick amd tying them in a bundle which couldn’t be broken a very powerful example.
    I think hands on approached are much more effective.

  55. I am from Whitby, Canada and I am a Child and Family Therapist working in private practice. I found the song of survival, and the 12 life saving tips to be inspiring and something I believe will be effective with the youth I work with.

  56. Every single one of those practices is inspiring! I was particularly moved by The Mt Elgon, Uganda, Self-Help Community Project. Witnessing how the therapists helped the community to develop narratives that allowed each individual involved to fulfil their hopes and dream was very powerful. Seeing the wider impact that this project had on the community’s development and initiatives is very inspiring.

  57. I am inspired by all the ways to move ownership of a program to the people it is for. I am curious about how I might go forward in using these ideas with the women I am working with to give them ownership which is important from a point of view of challenging gender steriotypes as well.

    I love the different ways of documenting – be it through song or diagrams (team and tree) – stories and hopes as well as the use of metaphore – I particulaly like the metaphore of the one stick vs the bundle of sticks – working in a bush adventure therapy program metaphores in nature are especially relevant and important.

  58. In my work with artists and writers I often hear about how important it is to have a sense of connection. I absolutely loved the metaphore of the “Team of Life” that shows that we are interconnected and interdependent and can use our skills and knowledges about connections to support creativity and thrive creatively. Oftentimes when we think of an artist or a writer, we see them working n their own, but in fact there is a whole community/family/circle of friends and acquaintences that creates the sense of connection and love, so needed in waking the creative force. I could make use of the “Team of Life” metaphor in my work with creatives – to help appreciate the sense of connection they have, necessary for their work to be accepted (and sometimes even make possible).

  59. Hi from Wales, UK. As a “cultural receiver of stories of suffering”, working as a support worker and training to be a counsellor I feel enormously privileged that people allow me to hear their stories and a great responsibility to use these stories to help other professionals see that there is more to a client than a label – addict, homeless, victim….. Fortunately I have avoided becoming jaded by hearing about suffering, the same cannot be said for professional people I meet. I hope that by joining with clients to find more than their dominant story I can assist them to get the treatment?support that they deserve.

  60. I’m Tiffany, writing from Calgary Alberta Canada. (Actually writing from Sylvan Lake at a family camp – lovely.)

    The idea of sparking sustainable small social movements immediately resonated with me, and I wonder about how I can bring this into my own work as a self-care and narrative coach. So many of the people I work with are struggling under intense intersectional oppression – not just racism, but racism misogyny. Not just misogyny, but transphobic misogyny. Not just poverty, but ableism and poverty. They stack. The stack gets heavy. I often perceive myself an an Eeyore – I appreciate ideas that leave room for despair – and I wonder how I can use these ideas to build hope without “bright-siding” folks. I don’t have a specific idea for how to use this yet, but I’m going to sit with it. I really like the idea of a pedagogy of desire, as well. I’m going to research that further.

  61. Hello everyone, this is Lucia, from Madrid, Spain. I really enjoyed this chapter because I believe that internal community stories do shape the way that entire comunity sees and faces the world. I take all the knowlegde learned from other to see how to apply it in social projects in my community, so we may help children who suffer abuse or women who suffer violence or maybe even adults that need to face radical changes in their own communities and don’t know how to face them. Incredible work!

  62. The work of Paolo Friere resonates with me in regard to narrative practice – I am fascinated by the delving into the context surrounding the issues affecting individuals and families – so much of the time “we” make assumptions about these issues and fail to see them with depth. I love the way the Friere expresses the complexities surrounding hunger, seeing it in a context of politics, education, violence, as well as wealth and the family’s own ability to manage food and hunger. I think the tree of life could be extremely powerful in exploring similar issues with individuals… hmmmmm…”food” for thought (sorry, too cheesy!)

    • “Too cheesy” – I see that pun!

      I agree about the Tree of Life as a rich source of emotional/mental nourishment.

  63. For me, Malawi’s “Little by little we make a bundle” was a powerful and effective way to reduce stigma and improve community conversations around HIV/AIDS. Intense expressions of grief, fear, anger and hope in the “Life Saving Tips from young Muslim Australians” was invigorating. The Tree of Life approach is culturally evocative project that provides a powerful and inspiring tool to use
    with individuals and communities.

    Narrative therapy lends itself to cultural sensitives opening opportunities for collaborative group practises that bring hope and healing. I am fascinated by the ease of integrating narrative practises into community projects as it invites diverse conversations that bridge the generations creating unity and compassion. I wish to explore using these methods to reduce stigma of mental health and using creative works of art and language to advocate for marginalised communities. I love the projects they offer inspiration to explore innovative ways to apply narrative therapy.

  64. I love the ‘Tree of Life’ resource and use it for self and my family. It is heart warming to learn that in different pockets, all over the world, great work is happening. In regard to music, it is like a smile – speaks all languages 🙂

    Many elements of what has been presented here has sparked enthusiasm and curiosity but one piece in particular was Paulo Freire’s article – for me, it fused together what we have heard, watched and learned. He said ‘Education can give people the greater clarity to read the world’. I rotate the word ‘education’ with other words like ‘understanding’ and ’empathy’.

  65. The Narrandera Koori Community Gathering is a program that has particular relevance and resonance for my own Central Australian context. Foremost, this program recognises the importance of working collectively in a space that honours the power of cultutre and utilises community development principles such as collaboration, participation and empowerment through the language of the community; song.

    The songs comprised by the community were centered around articulated the strengths and resources present, and the capacity for healing through mutual respect. Importantly, all members present at the gatherings are involved in the composition of the songs in a way that is intentionally accessible to the members and the broader community at large. This was ensured by having melodies that are easy to teach and sing, rhythm is simple and clear and the chorus is memorable. Upon reflection, this is a powerful Narrative therapy technique of co-authoring alternate story lines which provide a strong sense of hope.

    Through the guidance of the communities I work with and the communities I work for, I can see the potential for using song and language as a means of exploring alternate story lines of culture and of history.

  66. Zorana, integrative counsellor from the UK, now living in Sydney

    I have used the ‘tree of life’ with clients and found that it is a useful way to begin to get to know clients. It’s a creative stand-in for more traditional counselling assessment sessions. I find that counselling assessments can often be challenging for clients, especially young adults. They occur at the start of counselling when the therapeutic relationship is in it’s infancy, yet the client is expected to share a very personal life history. I have also used the tree of life with a client with a history of trauma towards the end of our work together – I hoped it would give her a sense of her own resilience, strength and courage which had been so evident to me. I wanted her to hear what I had heard, in her own words.

    I am really enjoying this course. Thank you!

  67. G’day from Busselton, Western Australia.

    Most of the innovation projects recorded in this lesson seem to be inspiring to myself, although implementing these concepts would need to suit the clients best skills, beliefs, and culture. alternative projects may include the use of photo’s in a group album, or short personal stories that can be incorporated into a group book or journal (similar to the document chapter) and used for public display if permitted by the authors.

    Cheers, Shane Thomson

  68. I’m feeling inspired to give the Tree of Life program a go. I like how it enables participants to share their stories in a way that is creative, non-threatening and that offers opportunities for psycho education and self reflection.

    It seems like a great tool for exploring alternative stories and finding strengths.

  69. I felt inspired after viewing the Mt.Elgon Project especially around the gift of giving eg. seeds to encourage sustainability and The Tree of Life which does not re- traumatize but strengthens relationships with history, culture etc.
    At my place of work a group of women recently completed an eight week strength based and often narrative domestic violence support group. The “acknowledgement of achievement was” celebrated with women receiving a boater ( a hat usually received after graduation)followed by the women, as custom would have, throwing it in the air in joyous celebration.

  70. From Melbourne, Australia.

    A phrase from the Mt Elgon Self-help community project stood out to me, in the context of circulating their documents of commitment for change: “it makes it possible to run without getting weary”. This resonated with me – I thought it a beautifully simple way to communicate the ways in which lack of hope and sadness can take away your energy / make you weary.

    I really liked the use of questioning the personified problem / or feeling. I intend to create questions for children to ask of some kind of anxiety character to help with the psycho-education aspect of my work with children. This device is often used in social emotional picture books for children and they love it – this will help me tailor for a client.

  71. I am from the Eyre Peninsula of South Australia, Australia.

    Is there an idea or project that stands out to you most at this time?
    What about this idea or project has sparked your enthusiasm or curiosity?
    In what ways might you begin to experiment with these ideas or methodologies?

    I find that all of the ideas and projects no matter how large or small, individual or group stand out in their own way for me, so choosing between them is a challenge. Therefore I choose to value and respect each of them equally because as one slogan puts it “from little things big things grow”. I deeply appreciate the way Narrative Approaches can be so creative and dynamic, having positive impact cross-culturally. That it encompasses incredible freedom that draws on diversity of cultures and thought in creating positive ways that influence change among complexities and trauma that can exist for many individuals and groups of people and bring healing and empowerment. What I see as a common element that seem to underpin all of the projects highlighted in this Chapter which resonated strongly with me, is the value, respect and embracing the place and influence of positive Spirit in building meaningful relationships. I am moved at the continued respect and empowerment of people that seem to underpin Narrative Approaches and Methodologies through shared experiences and pro-activity . Thanks for this uplifting chapter.

  72. I live in Alice Springs in Northern Territory Australia.

    I think the thing I was most inspired by was the number and differing types of projects across the world. – The universal application of this approach (in widely differing places with the peoples of many cultures and contexts) and the richness of the resulting outcomes. – How individuals and communities grew and thrived from engaging in them.

    It is the universality of Collective Narrative Practice which sparks my enthusiasm and I will think about where these ideas can be put into practice in the multicultural community in which I live. – A way that might bring together a diverse group which can create a project to promote inter-racial engagement and break down the barriers between different racial groups and foster acceptance of all.

    I am about to start a drama project working with a very mixed group of people who are wanting to create a play that will give people an understanding of what it means to live with mental illness and through this medium help to reduce the stigma of mental illness. Collective Narrative Practice could be a good way to create the story line for the play.

  73. Ludo Van Deuren – Belgium
    The tree of life is what stands out to me mostly. As an occupational therapist I work with materials, so this fits with me. It gives people time to reflect, what they come up with is written and becomes a document. Many aspects of someone’s life can be told about. When in a group you create a forest of life, you can connect (re-member) people to each other. It is something I am going to be working with.

  74. I love the way narrative therapy marries perfectly with asset-based community development in this section, and found it incredibly inspiring and relevant to the work we do with former refugee communities in Cairns.

    I was encouraged by the case study from Malawi “Little by little we make a bundle,” where community narrative practice was effective in decreasing stigma and increasing community conversation around HIV/AIDS.

    I am interested in exploring how a similar framework might be used to address the highly stigmatised area of mental health among the refugee communities we work with.

    I also found the Tree of Life methodology powerful, inspiring, and culturally resonant, and hope to use it as a tool in some community conversations we will be holding with elderly members of refugee communities in Cairns.

  75. I find it exceedingly difficult to select one or two projects out of the many that have been presented! Among those that resonated most were: the Teams of Life & Trees of Life (and Forests too); the songs, dance and art practice (Alliance against Anxiety) that have brought much hope and healing to communities – Aboriginal and otherwise.

    I’m buoyed by the many recorded and written examples of integrating youth and elders into process, as they have so much to learn from each other; and the bridging between generations through listening and sharing can be so instructive and therapeutic for future generations – while preserving essential elements of past lives and experience.

    On second thought, I must admit that one of the highlights was watching and listening to the Life Saving Tips from young Muslim Australians. So much depth of feeling in these expressions of pain, fear, anger and hope.

  76. Hello,

    I was taken by two projects in particular: the article on privilege (which had a link to a project in Singapore) and the community songs. Both projects gave me some food for thought and some space to reflect on my position as a therapist (which I would see as one of privilege, albeit a precarious one – what I mean by the concept of precariousness is that although I am a therapist and in a position of power, I am also positioned as an indigenous person inside an amazing, but not-very-well funded non-government agency). In previous years I worked in prisons as part of a drama therapy programme with inmates. In those programmes we engaged in a 14 week therapy process which culminated in a devised play that we put on for families, friends, other inmates, and the general public. This section reminded me of how those experiences led me to train as a psychologist, and the cathartic power of artistic experiences.

  77. Hi,

    What stood out for me were the healing stories partnerships. I am working a bit (would like more) with families, whose relatives disappeared during the Maoist insurgency in Nepal and have found a lot of points that resonated with what family-members have shared with me in the past. I wonder if similar partnerships could support them in griefing and remembering despite a political system that is so ready to forget and look forward to sharing, discussing and exploring options for it with my colleagues.

    In addition, I feel there is also a strong personal connection with those healing stories, as I recently lost my grandmother and am wondering how we as a family can remember her and how I could contribute to documenting and sharing narratives of oral histories of elders in my own community in connection to dealing with my own countries’ past and future. The healing stories were quite powerful to read in that sense and encourage me to keep on working this private project.

    Julia from Nepal/Austria

  78. This session helped me to make clear to my struggle on collective practice in Hong Kong. As in my city, social welfare distributes with assessment of needs of the responsible community. As a result, a need based approach becomes a mainstream of service. As a narrative practitioner, I seldom take my users as ” people in need”. To address the situation of community members, I always face to a problem how I can provide my social services as an asset based approach other than need approach. Collective practice bears an important concept by Paulo Freire that we are working to “create a pedagogy of desire”. It gives a solution to me that sometimes we are not providing social services to “solve social problems”. The social structure also needs to be re-structuring or re-imagined by an acknowledgement by persons. Collective practice is to engage a community based project that we want to create or restructure or de-structuring the result of normalization. To reduce the effect of social discourse to the responsible community, narrative practice acts as a media that co-creating a unique social context to the community that they share a collaborated story within them. After thickening their stories, it helps to the effect of the grand narrative that affects their lives without any notification before the appearance of their preferred story.

  79. A big range of inspiring projects! The uplifting and affirming process in Narrative Development Work project (Uganda) reminded me of Asset Based Community Development principles and was very Strengths-focussed. The Tree of Life is so versatile in its audience, it’s great.

  80. I love that these community projects exist in our world and that they are starting to have a positive impact on the communities that work hard to turn their hopes and dreams into real possibilities. I loved the metaphor used in the ‘little by little we make a bundle’, where it is easy to break if we stand alone however in a group we gain strength and therefore will not break. It really is powerful when metaphors and role plays can allow people the opportunity to re-evaluate their values and what matters to them most.

    In the past i have loved using the team of life, drawing on the inspiration used in the tree of life and that a forest can weather a storm better then one tree alone etc.

    I feel i have already experimented with the use of bring forth ‘communitites’ when working with whole families and other supportive people in a persons life. However, there is definitely room to grow and develop these ideas further and I love that the Mt Elgon Project outlined the steps they took to strengthen their connections and the action’s they took to move forward in building a better life. All these readings and examples are very inspirational and give HOPE.

  81. This section highlighted for me the Reconciliation and Call to Action that is taking place in Canada. This project and change in community consciousness is connected to the traumatic history our First Nations Peoples have suffered at the hands of the Catholic Church and the Canadian Government. For the first time in Canadian History, the Canadian Government is taking responsibility and acknowledging the impact the cultural genocide had on our Fist Nations Peoples, their communities and cultures. The project has greatly followed the steps outlines in this section and connects to the ethics and intentions of narrative practice.

  82. Hi, I’m Susie, from London UK. I work with people who have an experience of psychosis in the National Health Service (NHS) in the UK.

    This is the innovation I have most experience of, after a trainee I had ran a Tree of Life group in the crisis centre where I was working. It worked well for people with an experience of psychosis, being able to re-connect with the positive aspects of their roots, their strengths, skills and knowledge. The people in the crisis centre with a diagnosis of borderline personality disorder struggled with the project and several did not complete their tree. My sense was that during their crisis, one of the main concerns they were struggling with was other people listening, accepting and understanding how awful things had been for them. They had many encounters of people rejecting their suffering, invalidating them, blaming them for their difficulty in coping. As such, the invitation to think about the positive aspects of their roots jarred with the main concern they were trying to communicate at that time. It was my sense that they felt being able to identify positives about their roots, their strengths, skills, etc might led to further invalidation of the suffering they were currently experiencing. It would be interesting to hear about other Tree of Life groups with people with similar experiences to see how they went or what adaptations were helpful.

  83. Singapore
    I am so inspired by the Tree of Life approach that builds a new narrative from a position of strength, knowledge and safety before addressing trauma or hardship. I will definitely use this as an art therapy directive for my work with disadvantaged children as well as a single mothers support group (with history of domestic violence). A visual and narrative workshop that will facilitate their re-authoring of new identities: of hope, strength & survival instead of victims with no hope.

  84. I’m writing from Sydney, Australia-
    I felt really inspired by the article ‘Linking Stories and Initiatives: A narrative approach to working with the skills and knowledge of communities’, which is accessible through the ‘Healing Stories Partnerships with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Communities’ link on this webpage.
    I was really struck by how much the therapists/authors truly valued culture (specifically the Aboriginal culture of those communities), and empowerment of communities, rather than imposing something on to them, and that the project was community-driven; that the support was found within-community. I think that’s so important and something that’s so often missed.
    The idea of a community sharing knowledge and experience with another, and this process being helpful and healing for both, is interesting. It makes me think about how this could be applied to individual clients (an idea raised in previous modules)-but specifically how this could work with children, and whether it would be ok if the children already knew each other, for example in an orphanage, or whether it’s better to start with some kind of anonymity.

  85. This course is boggling my mind with possibilities.

    I was struck by how the transcripts from Little By Little We Make a Bundle also can serve a secondary purpose of powerfully promoting some understanding of this issue amongst outsiders.

    I found the information about using song, and the podcast with David Denborough especially inspiring, and I was very moved by ‘Song of Survival’ and the story behind it.

    I’m not a therapist – and group, class, and community projects are where I’m most likely to be able to incorporate elements of narrative practice. I’m really excited by some of the ideas that this whole course is sparking in my brain.

  86. Wow, some great work happening. I loved the discussion between the villagers and A
    IDS/CARE what an amazing idea – I could see the same sort of discussion happening involving drug and alcohol in small communities here in Australia.
    The use of the ‘football’ metaphor in the Mt Elgon project was another idea that interested me as well. As a netball coach I quite often use the same idea with girls in my teams, especially the young teenagers.

  87. How inspiring and motivating to hear about the many innovative project incorporating narrative therapy. The “little by little we make a bundle” reminded me of the value of externalisation and metaphors to assist people to place the issue under the microscope to question and learn. The Mt Elgon self-help community project reminded me of the valuable principles of community development and opened my eyes to how narrative therapy processes could be incorporated. Songs as a response to hardship reminded me of many of the creative students I see who can heal through song.

  88. Little by Little we Make a Bundle is an extremely powerful dialogue. One aspect that particularly resonated with me was it providing an opportunity for the villagers to get more in contact with their own histories of caring and collective action.
    Making History and Unveiling Oppression: the challenge “as human beings, surely our main responsibilities are to intervene in reality and to maintain our sense of hope”, together with the image (and metaphor) of cutting through the barbed wire fences (also of illiteracy, ignorance and fatalism) of the farm, still sit with me as I ponder my ascribed life roles, parent, spouse, friend, leader, etc.
    Narrative Development Work, Mt Elgon Self-Help Community Project, Raising our Heads above the Clouds, sets out a terrific methodology, with the Steps speaking for themselves: (1) Sharing stories of pride and survival, (2) outsider witness responses, (3) hopes and dreams, (4) histories of peoples hopes and dreams (providing a rich tapestry), raising people’s heads above the clouds, (5) calls to action, (6) documenting the calls to action and (7) circulating the documentation and calls to action. Leading to concrete projects such as better housing, small business, solar power, and children experiencing how to receive and give.
    Viewing the Life-Saving Tips is inspirational. Being created in the aftermath of the Cronulla Riots is apt at this time with the release of the movie Down Under, that uses comedy to view the Cronulla riots.
    Healing stories: Partnerships with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities, reminds me of the importance of stories and how in our fast paced world we rarely make time to immerse ourselves in stories to inform our way of being. It reminds me of Roman Krznaric’s The Wonderbox, Curious Histories of How to Live: how we can improve our lives through stories of history.
    Listening to Songs as a response to hardship and trauma was a wonderful conclusion to this lesson on a diverse range of methodologies that can be used with individuals, groups and communities. What terrific work the Dulwich Centre is doing and sharing to inspire others to do so in their own lives.
    Brisbane, Australia

  89. Whitsundays, Australia

    It was beautiful to see so many inspiring and locally appropriate solutions to community challenges. I was particularly taken by the tree of life methodology as it is a method I can see working with within my work context, with children who have experienced trauma from domestic violence and are living in refuges.

    Thank you

  90. Newcastle, Australia
    There are a lot of ideas and project in this chapter. Three main projects caught my attention.
    The first is the dialogue of Malawi people “Little by little we make a bundle” and it helped me to reflect on how powerful can be the Narrative Practice for communities to see problems and to start solve them.
    I also found Paulo Freire’s thought about his “pedagogy of desire”. He focuses on how help people (specifically homeless people) to rebuild their desire and wishes in afavourable context.
    The last but not least project that I loved and that I would like to use is “Songs as a response to hardship and trauma”. Music and songs can help to cure problems with a sort of “lightness”.

    • I loved Paulo Freire’s piece, too. And I found his unwavering belief in the ethical responsibilities of educators to be really affirming – something to hold onto and remind myself of.

  91. Alberton, South Africa
    All these projects are inspirational and well-adapted to their contexts. It certainly inspires hope for a vast number of possibilities!
    I could not possibly single one out as a favourite because each one is effective and seems to be tailor-made for the community in which it was practiced – and that is exactly what makes it work, I am sure. The importance of the community’s involvement in the planning, implementation and evaluation of each project makes it their own and I suppose that creates a sense of pride and supplies the motivation to make it work.
    I am personally very excited to try ideas I have found in each one of these models in work with groups of people who are struggling with the effects of addiction in their lives. I think the ideas in The Tree of Life could be applied successfully in that context, but also certain elements in ‘Raising our Heads Above The Clouds’
    Although there is a very established recovery program in South Africa and worldwide, my concern has always been that addiction is not externalized and even people who have managed to defeat addiction for more than 10 years, still refer to themselves as recovering addicts. I am keen to develop a Narrative Recovery Project that will remove the energy from the problem and re-focus it on developing rich, meaningful stories that bring emphasis to the hopes, skills and knowledge of those people. This will help them to see themselves differently and will make it easier to sustain an addiction-free life without having to wear the problem as a label.
    I am very excited indeed!

  92. Your projects are touching me deeply. Thank you so much for sharing them.
    In the ones I have studied I could notice that the participants play an active role in the search for sustainable solution possibilities through individual and collective empowerment that happens in amazing ways.
    When reading the stories and listening to the songs I remembered the following by ― Martin Buber, I and Thou:
    “Man wishes to be confirmed in his being by man, and wishes to have a presence in the being of the other….
    Secretly and bashfully he watches for a YES which allows him to be and which can come to him only from one human person to another.”

    with love

  93. I am so impressed with all these projects! I really want to look more into the “Tree of Life” model to see if it might be possible to use it with refugees in my area.

  94. I will soon be an intern and the ideas presented in this lesson will inform the way I enter into the communities where I will be serving those whose stories are not told. I want to celebrate their skills and knowledge, their dreams and hopes, with them. Using songs as a way to retell a person’s encounter with trauma, injustice, and oppression appeals to me the most. I know of several artists that find healing through the creative arts. Also, in Uganda when the students created the books to record their skills, knowledge, values, hopes, and dreams, I could see this as a project to use with children in the communities where I will be working.

  95. I found the projects and ideas in this chapter interesting and inspiring. I am beginning to formulate a plan to do some work with teenagers where I work and both the tree of life and songs could be really powerful ideas to use to engage these young people. Thank you for another brilliant chapter.

  96. The book “Abundance” (Kotler & Diamandis, 2012), describes how the chair of the Global Water Trust tells the story of a project in remote Africa where water pipe was run to within about 400 metres of a village in need, but the pipe kept getting vandalised. “Turns out,” he says, “the four hours every other day that the women spent hiking out to gather water was the only time they got away from their husbands. They cherished this privacy, so they kept sabotaging the pipe.”

    With this in mind, I very much agree with Paulo Freire’s assertion that prescriptive practices are to be avoided when working with communities to increase capacity and introduce positive change. I cannot help but appreciate and admire how the narrative therapy approach to community innovation projects looks to the community for its scripting, its language and its actions.

    “It is impossible for me as an educator to build another person’s wish,” says Paulo Freire. The Mt Elgon Self-Help Community Project is an ideal example of how the narrative therapy scaffolding enabled the participants to remember, connect with, articulate and then act upon their own dreams.

    On a slightly different note, coming from a Public Libraries background, I was particularly inspired by the fact that the booklets in which the Mt Elgon participants wrote the actions they intended to take in order to fulfil specific dreams were then added to the community library. Not only did these booklets document the strengths, skills and knowledge of the community, they also connected the community to its own cultural histories and traditions by acknowledging the origins (personal, familial and social) of their dreams. By being stored in a shared and public space (ie: the library), the booklets remain available to be referred to and discussed – in other words: they can be used as an ongoing community resource, a source of future strength.

  97. The Tree of Life is a wonderful narrative tool! I have tried a little myself to experiment with it in the a career counseling context and I think it has a great potential. It is a powerful metaphor that can really fit in a various array of social and cultural contests.

    Difficult to say which of the innovative projects presented in this Chapter have most triggered my entusiasm. I have really loved the live-savings tips project as well as I have found Paulo Freire’s words so much encouraging to me. What Freire wrote it seems like a kind of a manifesto about how counseling can be transformed into social action and Politic (with capital P). What caught my interest and my heart the first time I came into collective narrative practice was just its way of linking counselor’s work to community action. I feel like counseling has become a very individualized matter these days; counseling happens in isolation, counselors deal with individual problems called “disorders” or “mental diseases” as the person in itself should be “repaired” in some ways. I was first a little bit horrified about this isolation and about how individuals are often “blame” for something that is definitely not their “fault”. Narrative collective practice has open a whole new world for me.

  98. The Tree of Life is wonderful.The main thing I like about it is the way it can be individualised eg:orphans may feel ‘rootless’,but by using the tree of life they (and all of us) can see that identity is not solely biological.Many things can ‘root’ us- people not related by blood that may have offered love and support,places,occasions,music etc.Narrative practices encourage us to think laterally,to look for alternative/deeper understanding.We are a vast forest comprised of individual trees that need support every now and then, to keep our roots firmly embedded in the ground while growing towards the light.

  99. I think it is critical to hear the voices of your community and to support them in telling their stories, and using their guidance in how to tell it. I will say however, that I work with a refugee resettlement organization and the sheer cost of interpretation makes this almost impossible, not to mention the fact that we work with so many different language speaking groups. I do love the ideas though and am longing for more knowledge on what the foundation is for these groups.

    I can see myself integrating the Tree of Life activity into our Mindfulness Walking Group, to really bring home the spiritual nature of the group and helping people to see their stories as multi-layered–acknowledging adversity, social/cultural challenges and tragedies, but also adding a story that recognizes their strength and connection with others. I’m also thinking of ways in which I can incorporate the Tree of Life into parenting/caregiving relationship. We are always looking to find organic ways to support families with the impact of war-inflicted sexual assault and/or domestic violence, but I need to know more about how that could be done. The only thing I can imagine at this time is externalizing Violence–that Violence will do anything to stop people, to divide them, to hurt them. That when someone is hurt, violence can creep in and put that person at risk for letting the Violence take another toll. Using examples, Violence as DV, Child abuse, Sexual assault, aggressive behaviors. Maybe the opposite character would be Peace, again Peace unites, peace supports, respects, listens, takes commitment and intention. Am I on the right track here? And would people come? LOL

    Final thought. I loved the videos from young Muslims in Australia. This is something we’ve considered incorporating into our Client Wellness Orientation…any ideas where this or other similar projects can get funding?

    Thank you!

  100. The cross cultural community action story is really inspiring. I love that it practically aligns social action and personal change – so many approaches blame the victim and forget the beauty and strengths that already exists in people’s culture. The connection between people’s hopes and dreams and their ancestors hopes and dreams is moving to me because it is valuing others’ lives from the past.I can see that there are so many areas where this can be applied. Thank you!

  101. I was inspired by the community projects, it will be a challenge to translate them into an urban environment.

    The use of song is interesting. I remember a tale of Kev Carmody, when he first entered uni as a mature aged student he wasn’t able to write essays at an academic level, because he had not received a full education beforehand. His lecturers allowed him to present his work using his guitar for the first six months as they recognised it as a valid way to present in an oral tradition. He told the story of Australia and the history of his people in song. He has a PhD in History now.

    • Hello Stephen.. lovely to hear you are feeling inspired by these projects! I thought I would provide the link for others to a song by Kev Carmody and Paul Kelly inspired by your mentioning him!

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