Our society is shaped by some very dominant groups and narratives. Often these are professional, middle and upper class white men. This means that the voices of many other groups are ignored or misrepresented. 

When people don’t see themselves reflected in the stories told in our society then it can negatively impact their self worth. Sadly, they may also believe that their stories do not matter.

Training can help to build confidence but we need to do some more intensive work to make sure that each person feels valued and able to raise their voice.

Each participant will have unique circumstances – it is important that you build time into projects so that you can listen and respond to them. 

This stage of the process can bring its challenges. There may be a point where a participant needs a higher level of professional support. You also need to be careful that no harm is done by raising expectations that individual stories will result in change. 

In addition, predicting the amount of support someone is going to need is difficult. Sharing vulnerabilities and painful experiences can be a very emotional experience.

As a result, confidence building requires boundaries that help to:

It is also important to retain some flexibility so that you can respond with humanity when challenges arise.


What to ask


What to try

Setting up a mentoring network can help to ensure individuals have encouragement and a focal person to help guide them. 

If your organisation already has similar focal points within its team and services, you can adapt that role to incorporate a storytelling mentorship. 

Creating a mentoring plan involves allocating time and resources to listen to the experiences of participants and see how they are getting on. When invited to, they can also share their own knowledge, skills and experiences. 

A participant may want guidance on different things:

Choosing the right mentor and the process for how the mentoring sessions are delivered is important.

Some other tips:

Mentoring can take a little bit more planning but it has the potential to have a hugely positive impact on how participants engage with the project. 

It can significantly increase the quality of stories that are shared. The one-to-one support will also help the development, confidence and skills of those involved.


What to explore

The role of a mentor is highly specific to each context. But in 2004 David Clutterbuck, who is an academic researcher who studied mentoring relationships, came up with the following acronym for what mentors do:

Find our more about this in our guidance sheet here