Story Swap is an innovative educational program that uses storytelling, creative writing, and the visual arts to generate understanding between various groups of diverse individuals. Author Colum McCann founded this program with the Aspen Writers’ Foundation where kids from all over come together to tell each other their own stories as a tool for understanding other people. In an interview with NPR’s Neal Conan, McCann says:
I think one of the biggest political failures and the biggest social failures over the past few years has been the failure of empathy, not being able to look at the other person down the street. And we sit inside, we draw the curtains, we close down, we put on the plasma television, and we say, we are the important ones. And really, what’s important is what’s happening down the road. And if we can understand what’s happening to others, then we can finely, sort of, understand what’s happening to ourselves because there’s really loneliness in not being able to tell your story.
In September, 2011 The Aspen Writers’ Foundation and Global Nomads Group partnered to bring Arab and Jewish youth of Israel Together.
“Story Swap is powerful precisely because it harnesses storytelling — the most accessible and universal of all human activities — to open the doors of communication that might otherwise be closed,” said Lisa Consiglio, executive director of the AWF. “It works because when listening to stories, we suspend argument, engage our imagination, and, walking in the shoes of another, build compassion.”
A quick Google search brings up many other organizations that are hosting Story Swaps. The League for the Advancement of New England Storytelling sponsors regular free Story Swaps. They choose themes such as “Buddy Can You Spare A Dime,” “Hot Tub Stories/” and “Save Room for Pie” (which included bringing and sharing pies).
The Pioneer Valley Folklore Society of Western Massachusetts presents a Song and Story Swap on the first Saturday of every month. They feature a guest performer and then have an “open mic” for the public. Ottawa StoryTellers host a First Thursday Story Swap at the Library and Archives of Canada.
The Jane Addams Hull-House Museum in Chicago expands the concept by having a Seed and Story Swap where you can exchange seeds and presumably stories too.
Listen to each other! Hear and tell stories! The world will be a better place because of it.