Feedback on the Real Book

In 2010 I published a short field guide based on what we learned from the 3-month pilot of our GlobalGiving Storytelling Project in Kenya:

‘Story Real book’ 2010

It has been 18 months since we released this book. I never intended for this to be a static manual, nor did I want it to be “my perspective” alone. It is called the real book because what we most need is a living document to which many people working in communities, on social change, on enhanced service delivery, and on understanding the complex drivers of human behavior in society contribute. It needs to be our document, like a wiki – but the kind that contains MANY perspectives side by side instead of just one canonical version.

The closest examples are the Musical Real Book and Sun Tzu’s Art of War  (Do you know of a wiki type web-software that does this?)

For your reference: the Musical Real book is a central part of the culture of playing music where improvisation is essential. Real books are not for beginners: the reader interprets scant notation, and builds on his/her own familiarity with chords. The Real Book allows musicians to play an approximate version of hundreds of new songs quickly.

I don’t know of any website designed to visualize forks in an idea the way I want them to be – so that the document is a map of consensus and diversion. That would reveal what in the storytelling method can be changed and what remains essential. It would reveal where the method is incomplete and where it can be considered mature. All this we need from the a shared collaborative document.

I am updating the Real Book between now and April 15th. So please post your replies here on:

  1. What do you want me to explain more in the real book?
  2. What should I drop from the previous real book version?
  3. What big audacious topics should we introduce in the next book, even if we cannot answer them yet?
I am taking your suggestions and putting new material on the book.

New Stuff

This isn’t a comprehensive list, but I intend to cover these subjects.

  1. The do-it-yourself kit for storytelling. Concepts, a step-by-step timeline for rolling it out, looking at results, making decisions, and keeping it going. This will also explain by the “get two stories from each person about two different organizations” is the most important rule to enforce.
  2. A brief tour of all the storytelling project variants that I know of in Haiti, East Africa, South Africa, and Australia.
  3. A treatise on the “diversity sampling approach” as an alternative to  statistical sampling. The assumptions that people make with statistical sampling are almost never valid for the diverse and poorly understood populations of people in the developing world, slum dwellers, and the unemployed people who leave no trace in official statistics. And in the development context, if you treat this non-random sample as a random sample, your inferences will be systematically biased in the same direction – giving the appearance of a consistent (but erroneous) result. The reasons for the non-randomness are consistent; therefore the bias is consistent. (Typically it is a positive self-bias in stories from and through groups of people who want to entice powerful people to give resources).
  4. Visualizations – we just don’t have good enough tools out there to see patterns in stories. I think attaching a survey to each story is a helpful crutch but it is simply not a scalable approach. I believe the stories themselves are rich enough that computer algorithms will some day make it possible for us to see patterns and parse stories into sets of clusters that support some conclusions and contradict others. It’s more practical to gather 10 million stories about development and community efforts than to gather 1 million responses to a 30-question survey. And more fun, too. We can fill in the gaps if the storytellers were interconnected.
  5. Technology to aid feedback loops – I’ve built some and adopted others. You need to know this stuff.
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