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Workshop in another world

Imagine a workshop where you’re distracted by two men casually strolling along on the green roof or a big bold magpie with its blue-tipped wings, flying by and slowing down to land on the grass outside your second-floor window.

Well, that’s where I found myself yesterday at the Storytelling for Academics workshop at the NIOO-KNAW building in Wageningen, in honour of Wageningen in’to Languages’ fifth anniversary. The Netherlands Institute of Ecology is located in a living, breathing building. Within its walls, scientists and students work together to move our knowledge and understanding of ecology forward. These are stories that must be told.

On Thursday morning, 25 researchers and communications staff gathered to learn more about storytelling. Together we embarked on a journey through story structure, guided by some of the best-known figures in fairy tales like Little Red Riding Hood and Cinderella. These young ladies may seem naive, but they’ve got an awful lot to teach when it comes to story structure. Together, they entertained us and challenged us. Participants took their stories apart and put them back together again, discovering some hidden talent for art along the way.

We also tackled the question of application. While everyone in the room willingly embraced the effectiveness of storytelling for communication and absorbed the lessons of structure, application remains the challenge. Can story structure be used to communicate complex scientific information? Who’s the hero in a research study? What if my story is boring?

My answers to these questions? Yes… It depends… Impossible!

As a trainer for Radboud and Wageningen in’to Languages, it was a lovely first encounter with the NIOO-KNAW and I must say that all signs indicate an equally lovely encounter with storytelling for the participants.

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