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Harvesting Values

Page history last edited by bgblogging 13 years, 7 months ago




What happens to the stories after they are shared?



  If our project goal is to build trust and a sense of belonging within our community, we may decide not to capture the stories or dig deeply into them

  for the messages they carry.  Telling and listening may be enough for the first wave of storytelling.


  If our goal is to put the stories to work for the community, to gather information from them and act upon that information, then we need to think about

  effective and respectful methods of harvesting the values/information they contain as well as methods for sharing, saving and archiving the stories.


  How will we share, store and archive the stories?  Will they be compiled?  Excerpted?  Published?  Will they be shown in town?  In homes?  To the world?

  Will they  be placed online or in books?  In installations and exhibitions?






 Harvesting Values


There is much to be learned from the stories themselves, much to be gleaned from their detail and focus, much that can be used in the planning process for a town’s future.  Just as in high school we learned to find and analyze the themes in the stories we studied in history and literature classes, we can learn to unlock the themes embedded in our community-based stories, discovering what our storytellers value about this town or city as place and as community, how people’s experience living there has changed through time, what challenges and aspirations they see and the current tenor of people’s relationship with the built and natural landscape. Indeed, cultures through time have used stories to store and disseminate values and the lessons of the past, realities of the present and hopes for the future. Heart & Soul stories help us to trace experience and perception, emotional ties, biases and dreams that can elude more quantitative planning processes. They draw a complex portrait of the values people hold about their towns; surrounding any overtly declared values resides a wealth of information about precisely where people see (and used to see) this value, why it is important, and how it has shaped the their experience of the town and view of the future.  This fuller picture can aid the planning process to respond in a sensitive and nuanced way to the community’s hopes for the future. Allows surfacing of issues that hold back a process from moving forward.


Identifying the values and themes, then, is a vital step in the storytelling process when applied to land use planning.  It preserves and keeps the stories active long after the telling, the stories contributing to a trove of information about the community. The Heart & Soul approach to values harvest involves as much of the community as possible, furthering engagement efforts and the fostering of robust community ties.  The harvest process respects the teller’s individual perspective while weaving it into the fabric of the full community. Values harvesting can be an significant step in an integrated approach to Heart & Soul planning, that leads to facilitated dialogue and data visualization techniques. It allows participants to see their voice and values in often too technical or quantitative planning process.


What do we mean by Heart & Soul Values?

By values in the Heart & Soul Planning context, we mean the qualities, attributes, characteristics of a town and its community important to the people who live there.  Some values are naturally broad and nearly universal in scope: safety, good schools, friendliness, economic vitality, cultural vibrancy, access to services, connection to landscape and green spaces, to name a few.  Others are more specifically tied to a particular place or region, such as a thriving waterfront or agricultural base, preservation of historic architecture, diversity of the cultural fabric, access to trails in the wilderness. Some values are less easily quantifiable and appear driven, by some ineffable tone a place exudes because of the people call it home: integrity or welcome or openness. Sidebar Example of Damariscotta’s 6 values to their vision statement


How Story Values Enhance a Land-use Planning Process

To plan effectively and inclusively for a town’s land-use future, its important to understand the precise detail about what people mean when they say they value, say, that sense of welcome. We want to know what is it about the town that creates that welcome and whether it has changed over the years, and how land-use planning efforts can support, protect and even enhance the experience of that value. To know that townspeople embrace the spirit of friendliness that is legendary around these parts is significant, certainly, but what do they mean, exactly, by friendliness, and where is that spirit manifested? How do they experience that value and where and when? Do most people locate it in the same place, for the same reason, or do many factors contribute to the friendly reputation, factors that individually might lead to a range of land-use decisions?  Some residents might locate friendliness in a vibrant downtown filled with family-owned businesses; other might point to a specific gathering spot where they are known and welcomed.  We want to know all these reasons and how they relate to one another.  Stories reveal rich answers to these questions by going beyond statement of facts or positions, but by showing these values playing out in the town[.





 Methods of value and detailed information harvest/gathering vary depending on the storytelling media, the number of people involved, and the goal of the 

 storytelling event.  If the purpose of the event is primarily to create an atmosphere of fun and to foster trust as you work towards creating bonds and bridges

 within communities, then you will probably want to do very little value harvesting the first time out.  Sometimes it is enough to let the stories be told, to be

 listened to and discussed.


 To harvest values in a one-one one interview, let the storyteller tell you what his/her story means. 


Here is a sheet for a teller and a listener to fill out together: Harvesting Values with Interviewee.doc


And Envision Victor's Story gathering sheets Envision Victor Story Gathering Sheets.xls


The result can be discussed and then threaded into a more detailed chart such as the example below with the rays shooting out

 from the overall theme of "Friendliness."


 ManyEyes offers many data visualization options for free, some of which accept text as data, such as Wordle:


 Wordle, a simple, free online tool will create a word cloud from text, showing dominant themes.  It will not cluster related words, however,

 and so while it is arresting visually, and a superb first-level tool, it will not burrow down deeply into the values or provide comparison or show

 subtle relationships between values.




 From Damariscotta's Community Conversations, a Story Circles Event:

After people shared stories in their small circles, they jotted down the themes and valuesthey heard in the stories, discussed them and then all groups fed their words into Wordle--





Victor, Idaho's Draft Workplan Pulled Into Wordle:





  To gather values in story circles, story listeners can be asked to jot down the values they heard in the stories shared around the circle. 

  Patterns, related values and "hot topics" can emerge as the participants discuss and cluster the values as the following image demonstrates:






   Teasing out the Detail--Moving Beyond the General Naming of a Value





  Initially groups might well identify overarching themes, such as in the above example.  But what does a general tern such as "friendliness" mean within this

  community, as revealed by the stories?     We encourage the group to remember details, to discover subthemes, and to see how this value might relate to

  or be in conflict with other values.  Arranging and clustering these drawings, seeing where the arms touch one another, value to value, can lead to important

  revelations about differences and common ground, or topics for meetings using other  Heart & Soul approaches including data, polling, discovery,

  CommunityViz, etc.



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