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Speaking in the first-person: A dynamic way to share knowledge

August 16, 2017 | Blog Admin | Let's Talk Visual |

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Rating: 4.7 out of 5

darcyMuch governmental writing is devoid of the first-person narrative. This approach to knowledge sharing can appear more objective. However, behind every text is an author who holds opinions and perspectives. Writing and speaking from a first-person point of view can make unique and diverse insights more transparent and accessible.

Darcy Alexandra, Inquiry Media

During digital storytelling workshops supported by the Learning & Networking Team, I had the pleasure of assisting SDC members from around the world in the creation of over 60 short videos. This collaborative media production process entailed helping thematic specialists, program managers, and beneficiaries to reflect upon their experiences, think through key messages, find the essence of the story, consider their audience, and determine where their knowledge could have Impact.

As experienced facilitators, my team and I were impressed by the integrity of the people we worked with at the SDC. They wanted to represent their work and that of the SDC accurately and fairly, and they wanted to express their observations in ways that could make a positive difference. In the workshops, we invited participants to share their expertise by positioning themselves using the first person pronoun. Encouraging governmental agency workers and project beneficiaries to speak in the first-person proved to be a provocative exercise. More than a few people felt uncomfortable and, perhaps, even a little suspicious of the idea that they could–and should–speak from a first-person point of view. They considered the risks. Would they appear foolish talking about themselves? Would it be better to focus solely on statistics? Does the first-person pronoun appear unprofessional? Should they keep to official language that erases the individual voice?

SDC members read first-person narratives created by beneficiaries, thematic specialists and program managers during digital storytelling workshops.  Photo credit: Leonie Pock

SDC members read first-person narratives created by beneficiaries, thematic specialists and program managers during digital storytelling workshops. Photo credit: Leonie Pock

These questions raised by SDC workers about how and where to position themselves within the story inspired discussion about foundational issues like objectivity, neutrality, and accountability. The first-person point of view is a subjective position. On the surface, this would seem contradictory to an agency’s mission to remain neutral. But I would argue that deeply reflecting on ones professional experiences and sharing those unique perspectives in an accessible format is one crucial way of being accountable. It is a dynamic way of taking responsibility for ones knowledge. It offers one, clearly positioned perspective–ideally, one among many. The risks the narrator takes in positioning herself as the central author of her observations and analysis can make these very insights more engaging, and more impactful. As the saying goes, every journey begins with a single step. I suggest that the first-person point of view can be a humble, and yet powerful, place to begin sharing the ethos and expertise of the very people who constitute the SDC. I invite you to watch the videos that were created during this initiative, and listen and see for yourself.

 

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