So what have I learned about the role of stories in social change?

My research has shown me that the power of stories lies most profoundly with the audience. It is the co-creation of the story in all its aspects, but particularly the relational, performance, and framing, that motivates and instructs the audience in how to share the story and tell their own social change stories. And through the emergence of hundreds, thousands, millions of new storytellers, we create new storylines, new narrative trajectories, to live by. That’s it in a nutshell. Simple, really. So now I need you to share in my story, help me write it and add your own twist. And then tell others. Lots of others.

Shout it from the rooftops of the internet.

Our Broken System…

fair food

“Many of our country’s systems are in need of repair…education system…health care system…energy system…financial system…

But there is another system that gets much less attention than it deserves, even though we all rely on it to keep us alive – if we are lucky, three times a day: our food system. When a system we depend on to meet essential needs isn’t working, the consequences are enormous.The food system that evolved to bring us abundant food at low cost has grown out of control, nourishing us by destroying some of what we hold most precious: our environment, our health, and our future. The problems it has engendered – from agricultural chemical runoff in our rivers, streams, and oceans, to soaring rates of diet-related illnesses (such as diabetes) in our inner cities, to the loss of prime farmland due to urban and suburban sprawl, to corporate conglomeration that concentrates 80 percent of our meat supply in the hands of only four companies – are not isolated issued to be solved one by one. Rather they are symptoms of a food system that is broken and needs to be redesigned.”

That’s the first page of Fair Food: Growing a Healthy, Sustainable Food System for All by Oran B. Hesterman, the founder of the Fair Food Network. Well said. I’ll let you know what the rest of the book has to say.

Anne Dodds

The Blog of Knitted Fog


I love this photo of Ann Dodds, the first female driver of The London Underground, about to drive a tube train. It was taken 6th October 1978; I came across it on The Guardian’s photo gallery ‘150 years of the London underground – in pictures‘. As this year celebrates 150 years, this means that women have only been working on The London Underground for roughly a fifth of its existence. Go Ann!

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Chinua Achebe: Some reflections

TED Blog

The world lost one of its literary giants today. Nigerian writer Chinua Achebe has died at the age 82.

For Nigerians, Achebe was a national treasure. He was the first African writer to attract international acclaim, and an outspoken leader with far-reaching influence on both politics and culture. Emeka Okafor, who produced the TEDGlobal conference in Tanzania 5 years ago and is Achebe’s relative, says, “He was in many ways the conscience of Nigeria. Unflinching in his critiques, a monumental figure.”

For me, Achebe’s novel Things Fall Apart (1958) was my first real glimpse at Africa beyond the negative headlines (famine, disease, war) and the nature documentaries. His story was a stark portrayal of the devastating impact of colonization on traditional African societies, told through the lens of a single individual. It changed the way I think, helping me see the much bigger picture behind the headlines from Africa (and elsewhere), and understand…

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It took a recent article by Dr. Andrew Crane, a professor at the Schulich School of Business, to put slavery in the forefront of my mind, as one of the most important issues that we need to deal with. Modern slavery. It bears little resemblance to the U.S. slave trade of the 1800s. Today’s slaves are bonded or forced laborers, child laborers, as well as those trafficked for the sex trade. They are people who live in poverty, who owe money, loaned at such high rates that their entire wage cannot even come close to paying off the loan, leading to generations of slaves and poverty so extreme that parents are willing to give their children up to go with strangers who promise an education and good jobs. These slaves endure cruel and inhumane working conditions that include abuse, threats, and unsafe practices, for no pay and with no way out. It is illegal in every country, but it is estimated that there are approximately 27 million people in slavery today.

BUT HERE’S THE MOST IMPORTANT PART: they are working, in way too many cases, to make the products that we consume. The cheap, mass-produced goods and commodities that we demand often use slave labor because it is the most ‘efficient’ economic model that can support the production of clothing, carpets, coffee and other products that we want dirt cheap, and still earn a profit for the owners. And the current neoliberal economic order, without intervention, will push this system further, under the guise of increasing competitiveness.

So what can we do? We can intervene.

1) Stay informed and pressure retailers who do not monitor their supply chain. Think twice before buying something from a dollar store. Pressure discount retailers, such as Walmart and Target and others, to scrutinize their supply chain and ensure international labor standards are met.

2) Shop at retailers who DO monitor their supply chain and know that labor standards are met. Buy Fair Trade-certified products whenever possible. Rugmark is a certification specific to the carpet industry. Look for other ethical trade initiatives for the products you buy.

3) Use your voice. Join the letter writing campaigns of organizations such as Anti-Slavery International, End Slavery Now. has several petitions that relate to slavery. You can find them by searching ‘slavery’ at End It Now asks you to share their #enditnow message on your social media sites.

4) Add any other ideas you have to the comment section.

Why do I want to start a Riot?

The world is going to implode.

Either through climate change brought on by the burning of fossil fuels, or through civil unrest caused by social inequality and injustice. Or though some as yet unknown blunder created by the human race. Whatever the case, I’d say we have 50, maybe 100 years left. So, being a naive, middle class kid from the suburbs who was told she could do anything she wanted, I thought, I want to change the world.

First, I tried conscientious objection. I became a vegetarian and I eschewed the material in favor of the re-purposed and the second hand. I traveled around the world  to learn about other ways to live and made conscious choices in place of my previous blind faith. But, with the other 7 or so billion people in the world, that didn’t really make much of an impact.

So then I tried to change the system from within. I did my MBA and then consulted for non-profits about social entrepreneurship and venture philanthropy and other business ideas I thought might shake up the capitalist hegemony. But even that didn’t really do much. I’m still a vegetarian with a house full of ‘vintage charm’ and I’ve met a huge heapful of insightful and energetic people running really cool organizations (I’ll be blogging about them later) with tons of super-creative plans for how to make the world a better place. If only people would listen.

Which brings me to my next plan. I’m adding my voice to the cacophony of noise on the internet in the hopes of starting a riot. I figure if enough people start talking really loudly about making the world a better place, sharing everything we know and don’t know, that sooner or later people might start listening, and together we could write a new ending. My research is, after all, about the power of stories for social change…