Our Storytelling Guidelines

It’s been 7 years since we launched Neighbor Up and, in that time, Community Network Building — once unknown and untrusted — has gained a foothold here in Cleveland and, as Neighbor Up member Bianca Butts said, Neighbor Up has become a trusted ear in the community.

We’re proud of this network of almost 3,000 people committed to making positive change in our city, and the work we’ve all done to create space for people to cross lines of difference, level the playing field, and act together on issues they care about. 

As we move deeper into the practice of Community Network Building, we want to do a better job of telling the powerful stories that emerge when people work together to make change in their own communities. Documenting and telling those stories is both an act of healing and of justice. Historical narratives are often written and disseminated by dominant culture, as a way of maintaining power structures and keeping people who live outside of the dominant culture marginalized and subordinate. We support storytelling that works from a sense of abundance and that recognizes the power of individuals and communities. This pursuit is called “narrative justice.”

Grounded by our Vision, Mission and Values and inspired by our friends at City Bureau and the storytellers Lewis Mehl-Madrona and Barbara Mainguy, we decided to establish Neighbor Up Storytelling Guidelines as we worked on the “Good News Cleveland” project this summer. These guidelines are a way to hold ourselves accountable:

  • We believe in the power of authentic relationships. We cultivate relationships, not transactions. Authentic storytelling takes time, intentionality and space to evolve. We resist rushing this process.
  • We take an asset-oriented approach to storytelling. We believe that most of what’s needed to improve our communities already exists within our communities. Recognizing, respecting and connecting those assets is what sparks change — with people, and their gifts, at the center.
  • We produce work that is non-dominant and works to amplify shared power and diminish the impact of positional power.
  • With our storytelling, we create space for interconnected learning and the expression of communal power.
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