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It's a truly awesome book. The breadth of understanding the author has for stories and how they can be used and understood is unparalleled. I was ready to give it three stars because on the Kindle reader for my device, very few of the illustrations have come through. I recommend using the cloud reader if that is the case for you. The illustrations are part of the great charm of this book.
Cynthia Kurtz is one of my favorite people and biggest inspirations. Her deep understanding of the wisdom of people's ordinary stories has informed almost everything I've worked on in the past five years.
"Working with Stories in Your Community Or Organization" discusses everything (I mean everything) you need to know about story-gathering, sensemaking and acting on what you find. What is most impressive to me is the book's ambition - it is comprehensive, advanced, yet accessible, suitable for a beginner trying to understand what a group is about and what it needs to a PhD who wants to do better qualitative research. It's all here.
This is a timeless book, the insights and lessons from which will be as pertinent in 20 years as they are today.
Despite the fact that Cynthia will stress that most of what's in this book is not a recent invention and has in use in many cultures and communities for centuries or longer, this book is no less than an giant achievement.
In short, the book provides a sound foundation/fundament to anyone who considers to start a participatory story project, a project wherein people share stories and interpret these stories (self or with their peers ) to gain understanding, build insights and improve decision making.
This is however not the typical how-to-do-it recipe/cookbook, but a fine description of all the background and practical information needed to start, run and finish such a project successfully (or more successful as your previous try). So it is a textbook and a cookbook, but a cookbook that encourages you to learn how to discover a better recipe.
I would recommend NOT to read the book before flipping through it, study the table of contents and glancing the index for a while. Next consider start reading and you might finish it. I notice myself quickly adopting it as "the bible on participatory narrative". Yes, I read it all, but I find myself going back, rereading and discovering new things.
I hope the same happens to many of you. This book deserves it. It's worth it
Cynthia Kurtz has generously complied (and thoroughly indexed!) everything you need to know about inviting the members of your organization to work with story. To be clear, this is the definitive book on what Kurtz calls Participatory Narrative Inquiry: how to engage people in using stories to gain insight and make changes in their own behaviors and immediate communities. It is a powerful and inspiring tool.
For years, I've been referencing and searching her blog, Storycolored Glasses, to glean insight as I commence a project. More recently, at the start of a large and complex project, I settled in with her book and found support, insight, and ideas on what to do - and perhaps most importantly, what not to do - when working with stories.
Cynthia Kurtz is one of the most brilliant thinkers I know of, and this is her masterwork. If you have any interest in how we use stories to co-create reality, and if you are interested in using stories to foment change, this is the book for you. Cynthia is a wonderful teacher and her wisdom and kindness shine through on every page.