Storytelling & Communities: Max Hardy at QCOSS 2018

Collaboration for Impact (CFI) Associate & former Tedx speaker Max Hardy recently facilitated at QCOSS’s “Movement for Change” Conference. These are his takeaways from the event where delegates learned how to start conversations for change in their own communities.

“The stories we tell ourselves now will determine the future. How do we change these stories to create the future we want? How do we move our communities closer to creating greater wellbeing by challenging how we all talk and think about the world?”

The theme for QCOSS’s Movement for Change 2018 focused on community storytelling as a powerful catalyst for change. As a CFI Associate and facilitator of Day 2, my task was to help the 150+ conference delegates to take their own stories and insights, and channel them into a commitment to action!

A Roadmap for Day 2

We started with the plan for the day: a roadmap, which we went on to revisit throughout the day.

“Appreciative Inquiry” Interviews

We then moved into an appreciative inquiry-style paired interview. Delegates were invited to find someone they didn’t know to share a story of when they had been part of ‘an inspiring process that led to significant change’.

The exercise was about focusing on what they wanted to see more of, and the room was buzzing as 100 paired conversations took place. The key lessons from their experiences were then shared at tables of six (three pairs), and these were posted, themed and named over morning tea.

Some of the conversation highlights posted on the conference app – Attendify – during the paired interviews included:

“A way to create movement is to focus and expand on what’s working!”

“I can feel the energy! Stories of change will do that!”

“[These are] inter-generational stories of significant change.”

Creating Themed Areas to Inform Regional Planning

The QCOSS team and I then worked to create “themed areas” to help participants explore further how these lessons could be better understood and drawn upon to inform regional planning.

The themes included:

  • Communicating for change
  • Building our shared purpose
  • Including everybody
  • Trusting the community to lead
  • Collaborating for impact
  • One step at a time
  • Listening to empower
  • Valuing lived experience
  • Finding common ground
  • Changing ourselves
  • Challenging the system

Participants were instructed to find a table with a theme they were drawn to, with a view to having their area represented in as many themes as possible. They were encouraged to think about:

  • What lessons emerged from the stories shared where this theme emerged?
  • What makes this theme significant? How does it make a difference?
  • What are some of the contextual factors important to recognise?
  • What makes it challenging to act upon?
  • If implemented what changes could be triggered?

Again, the energy was amazing and people organised themselves swiftly. In the final minutes of this session, participants completed their individual reflections sheets ready to take to their regional groups post-lunch.

Future-Facing Questions

Lunch was 20 minutes away but we were not finished yet! We invited the same groups to answer the three following questions:

  1. Thinking of the year 2030, what will we have achieved?
  2. How will our community look different?
  3. How will we know we have made a difference?

After some frenetic talking, pondering and writing, we had 24 x table contributions for a lunchtime team to work into a Vision Statement.

Creating a Vision for 2030

It was hard work with so much to synthesise in a relatively short period of time but in the end, we arrived at this:

By 2030, we will have whole of community outcomes of wellbeing, inclusion and ownership. To achieve this, we need system changes focussing on social justice, political reform and the safety net, and better ways of working including listening, collaboration and prevention.

By 2030 we will have a world of…

Whole-of-Community Outcomes
·      Wellbeing: Everyone in community experiences the wellbeing of safety, security, access, opportunity and meaningfulness. All social issues are addressed, including ending poverty and inequality.

·      Inclusion: Community is inclusive and accepting of diversity, where all feel valued, based on a framework of human rights.

·      Ownership: Local communities have ownership over local issues, where everyone is an empowered participant.

To achieve this, we need to have…

System Changes Better Ways of Working
·      Social justice: Put people before profit, end privatisation of public services (housing, health and education), recognise people are citizens first, before they are workers.

·      Political reform: Reformed political system with better representation including more diversity, more people-based parties, and an upper house in Queensland.

·      Safety net: Fairer, non-stigmatising social security system.

·      Listening: Valued all lived experience, listening to all voices, stories and past history.

·      Collaboration: Services are truly collaboratively working together non-competitively with a connected community.

·      Prevention: Proactive approaches of early intervention and prevention are adopted.


Building Commitments to Action: Guiding Questions

After lunch, participants moved into their regional groupings to draw upon all the insights gained so far to build commitments to act. The following questions guided delegates and some of the commitments were then shared and celebrated:

  • What do we feel most committed to changing in our region/area of focus?
  • What are we most excited about trying, to generate change in our region/area of focus?
  • What can we build upon? What is already happening that is getting traction?
  • Who else could be involved?
  • What resources already exist?
  • What other resources might we call upon?
  • How can we support each other in this process?
  • How could QCOSS help support you?
  • Where might we start? What can we commit to today?

It was a hectic day but I was incredibly impressed by the commitment of conference participants. The QCOSS team were brilliant to work with, coming with energy, anticipation and clarity of intent. They did not want to own or run the day; they wanted to support delegates to collaborate their way through to an outcome.

For me what was so apparent was the power of a shared purpose, and the willingness to learn from each other. The role of the facilitator should always be: creating a process, a structure and allowing people to work their magic.

All in all, a fabulous experience for me and joy to support this impressive bunch of people!

For more information about QCOSS and their work supporting communities, visit



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