Originally published in the Municipal Journal.

Over 60 councils and individuals have contributed to a unique new book that captures the essence of public service. Plus there’s a new narrative creating resource from LGA that coincides with its launch. 

By Dawn Reeves

One Story – Councils, covid and better futures, is a book that shares 60 compelling stories that celebrate the true grit of people in councils and communities that’s been shown in spades during the pandemic. It’s about what holds us together, what absolutely matters and what people need to do together to face an uncertain future. And it has one story, the essence of a new narrative for local government, a persuasive and vital case with a new way of telling it post Covid-19.

These diverse stories show that local government is run by people like you, people who care. We often talk about making a difference, it’s a clear motivation for public servants, but the reason we care is because we live here too. It’s in our common interest to work together, to protect each other when we need to, and be bold to make our places the best they can be, because we all benefit.  

During the pandemic our local is smaller, more human and personal. We all probably know someone who works for or with the council. This means communities can trust councils and hold them to account when we get it wrong. There is a local legitimacy and longevity that matters, even when voter turnout remains low. 

The book is powerful and hopeful because, despite fatigue and overwhelm, it looks back at what’s been done and forward to what we can do with the confidence of experience and a critical mass. 

All councils will need to rethink their narrative, to help make sense of Covid and to create better futures. To help that process, we have collaborated with the Local Government Association to launch a new “Building narratives in your council toolkit” with practical resources for anyone seeking to use narrative to influence positive change in their council and communities. The toolkit  examines why and how a more engaging approach to developing and communicating a narrative works, and offers practical models and approaches to developing and communicating corporate narratives in the real world.

How you tell your story matters

One Story contributors were also invited to nominate a magical object to illustrate each story – something with meaning for the writers. This innovative concept connects the story to the reader in different ways and deepens our understanding and impact as humans. 

We view the launch of One Story and the LGA toolkit as a beginning, not an end to this new way of sharing local government’s value and impact. How the new narrative will land, create conversations or drive better storytelling in our councils will be up to our community of contributors and thinkers. That’s the nature of narratives, they can be mercurial, fluid, breaking off in unexpected channels. At their best they change, grow, and get adapted to local circumstances – they live!  

After all, storytelling is a team sport.

The book is written by a network of many creative hard-working people, who don’t like the dominant narratives about local government and stepped into the space, using their voices to change the big picture story. Right from the start, we saw this as a sort of guerrilla operation, bottom-up but linked to many organisations in the sector.

One Story has had additional support in our community. In addition to the LGA toolkits, CCLA has sponsored the book and produced hard copies for purchase. DigiKind is hosting, promoting and sharing each of the stories told in the book. We have joined Comms2Point0 for a special podcast on Talking Comms to share our stories.  

Across the network of incredible contributors, we’ve mobilised all sorts of stories and masses of support, with the toolkit, the comms strategy, illustrations, photography, actors, video, and podcasts. We hope you’ll join us in telling your story. Join us and get started with One Story, A New Narrative here: https://linktr.ee/onestory_.

Dawn Reeves is a story activist, creative facilitator, public services expert and writer.