Storytelling is a way to better understand each other and build empathy and, according to researchers, fiction seems to be more effective at changing beliefs than interventions that are specifically designed to persuade through argument and evidence. Knowing this is an opportunity for building social cohesion in South Africa and there’s an organisation doing just that – at scale.
South Africans have recently been on a roller coaster of highs and lows. We sank to new lows as gender-based violence and xenophobic attacks grabbed headlines, only to climb the highest of highs as our Springboks inspired the nation with their win and #StrongerTogether message.
Heartlines (a social change NGO), has been investigating what would help South Africans overcome the “othering” that is a legacy of our apartheid past. International research by academics such as Daniel Batson and Owen Hargie indicates that a lack of empathy in society is closely associated with an increase in “othering” and a resultant increase in violence, stress, miscommunication and an unwillingness to make compromises.
We have sought to test different practical ways to build empathy and developed a programme entitled “What’s Your Story?”.
“What’s Your Story?” focuses on the use of personal storytelling to touch hearts, change attitudes and transform behaviour.