Storytelling and science: two worlds, one vision?

February 22, 2023

Reading time: 1 minute

Author: Odile Joblin

On February 15 & 16, 2023 a real synergy between two worlds took place. Trainees in the LEADS program, with scientific backgrounds in various disciplines, attended a workshop on leadership and storytelling. This event built bridges between different areas of expertise and approaches to sustainability and science communication, leading to a spirit of collective leadership within the group.

Group photo of participants for the LEADS workshop on leadership and storytelling

LEADS – the Leadership in Environmental And Digital innovation for Sustainability graduate training program – was launched in 2020. Future Earth and Sustainability in the Digital Age are founding partners of LEADS together with all the major universities in Montreal, Canada. This unique program aims to mobilize scientific understanding of the current sustainability crisis from multiple disciplinary perspectives and identify opportunities for digital technologies to accelerate transitions to sustainability.

Twenty LEADS trainees, as well as Jennifer Garard, Ernest Habanabakize and Camilo Alejo from Future Earth & Sustainability in the Digital Age, participated in this unique experience of self-reflection, expression and leadership around sustainability. They discovered ways in which their visions for a better future could inspire others through different communication tools. The workshop was guided over the two days by Damon Matthews, Elena Bennett, and Nilufar Sabet-Kassouf.

Group panel photo for LEADS workshop on leadership and storytelling

The first day of the workshop explored the concept of storytelling and how it can foster collective leadership. It addressed the following question: “How do you communicate clearly, and listen in a reflective way to reach a collective understanding and decision within a group or community?” LEADS trainees drew their own definition of collective leadership, they practised reflective listening and echoed on their personal experiences and visions to express them better.

The second day of the workshop welcomed three experts: Alexa Fay, a documentary film director; Sara Heppner, a graphic designer and graphic facilitator; and Guillaume Simard, a film director with extensive expertise in advertising and marketing, currently teaching communication and podcasting. The morning began with a panel discussion on the importance and processes of storytelling and gave way to practical exercises in these three branches of communication.

Workshop group watch a video on a large projector screen in a darkened room
Small workshop group participate in a podcasting exercise

It was an opportunity for trainees to explore different communication media, and to discover their affinities with these tools. This day concluded with the creation of group podcasts and new affinities for our LEADS group.

So… who said storytelling was incompatible with science and research?