Change Begins With Community Storytelling, Allison Says

Posted by | June 6, 2011 | Blog, Events | 2 Comments |

Communities must tell their own stories and citizens must rediscover their optimism if cities are to recover and heal from the “bang-ups and hang-ups” of the last four years, said keynote speaker Aimee Allison, former host and producer of the KPFA morning show.

The notion of The New Normal is “shorthand for a bleak American future,” Allison told the opening plenary of the Craigslist Foundation’s 8th Annual Boot Camp June 2. Citing a recent Pew research study, she noted that more than half of American workers have dealt with unemployment, pay cuts, or reduced hours, or been forced to work part-time. Collapsing share and housing prices have destroyed one-fifth of the wealth in the average household, and fewer than half of American adults expect their children’s standard of living to be better than their own.

But community leadership is rising up to create a new narrative, and to tell neighborhood stories that are often much more positive than the standard media story about cities like Oakland, where Allison lives. She contrasted the Fox News version of her city as a hotbed of racial violence with the positive change and creativity going on at the grassroots.

“We need to think new thoughts, to create a new American dream where we help take care of our human needs and our children, and at the same time address in an effective way the world’s biggest problems,” like economic inequalities, climate change, war, and militarism.

“We know the old story about Oakland, but I have a new story,” she said. “Oakland is one of the greatest cities in our nation. It is my personal mission to continue to change hearts and minds about people who live in the largest city in the East Bay,” and show how cultural, food security, and local economy projects in Oakland point to new strategies for other cities.

Craigslist Foundation is grateful to The Conference Publishers for this Boot Camp report. The Conference Publishers is a world leader in capturing and repackaging conference content. The firm has worked with local writers in more than 200 communities across North America and beyond, helping organizations get better results from the conferences they host and the knowledge participants share onsite.


  1. Sherri Morr June 6, 2011 at 3:38 pm

    Aimee Allison was a pleasure to listen to, I mean really listen. She is a wonderful keynote with a rousing energy, a style and intonations that make her delivery very very understandable. Now its going to be all about moving to Oakland.
    However (perhaps this was covered in the closing, I had to depart) it would be nice to hear how to create that change for the homeless or medical care or education for low income childre…real issues. Storytelling has been around way before non profit usage. Therefore, perhaps having her tell a story about specifc issues, social issues, or community endeavors like housing, or services for the elderly. I am not so certain the young audience could tell those stories, let alone know what to do with them.

  2. Paige June 6, 2011 at 3:41 pm

    Sherri, this is great feedback. Thanks! Your suggestion is a great one for discussion at our conference call with Aimee on July 13. I hope you can join us, and we’ll be updating our website with the details soon. We’ll invite questions and challenges from participants for Aimee in advance, and I’ll add this one to the document to start it off!