Storytelling has been central to the sharing of knowledge for thousands of years, and a recent study of catchment groups suggests that even in today’s world, stories are integral to their success.
Kati Doehring, a freshwater ecologist and science communicator at the Cawthron Institute, led a project that found catchment groups could be more effective if they shared their stories of success and failure with their communities and others on the same journey.
“We’ve come to realise that sharing restoration knowledge is really important for catchment groups and if that knowledge is shared collectively from the bottom up then the momentum and the uptake is amplified,” she said.
“What we looked at is how groups often do a lot of good work and hold a lot of knowledge about the things that worked and the things that didn’t work.
“If they tend go out and share that restoration knowledge with other groups that are either just starting out or even have been going for a while then a lot of mistakes can be avoided.”
Doehring said these older, “champion” groups have made a lot of the mistakes and know the solutions.
“That’s where the idea of collective storytelling comes in.”
The researchers spoke to five catchment groups, and while they all had unique and individual stories that reflected their environment and stage of development, there were some common trends.
Doehring summarised these into three themes.
• Catchment journeys produced and shared by respected storytellers can encourage further restoration in their communities.
• Catchment journeys can motivate ongoing change, driven by land stewardship, proof of restoration progress, future generation and community cohesion.
• Complete catchment stories (including successes, weaknesses and hardship) can elicit emotions in participants that encourage ongoing momentum to restore.
MORE: Listen to Bryan’s interview with Kati Doehring below, or read more about the project here.