Has anyone ever asked you, “Why do you support Planned Parenthood?” Did you find it easy, or difficult, to explain your answer to them?
Many supporters of Planned Parenthood like you and I have been asked this question at some point. And many of us have shared our stories to answer that question.
We always have important reasons why reproductive health care access is important to us. The 120,000+ patients who received care at PPGNHAIK health centers in the past year are not an amorphous statistic, but are our parents, children, siblings, partners and ourselves. We are linked together in the stories of our lives, families and communities.
Reproductive health care is important to us and to those we love, and the reasons are contained within these powerful stories. Storytelling has always been a key component of activism and change.
Exclusion from public narratives is one of the main ways that people are marginalized. In the past, the stories of women harmed by lack of reproductive health care were swept under the rug and treated as taboo. Today, we understand that telling the stories of past and current harm – as well as current success – can shape the future. In the age of social media, the stories we tell can have a tremendous impact and create more change than ever before.
However, the revolutionary act of authentic storytelling can be costly to individuals. It requires vulnerability, which greater society can be very hostile toward, and a sense of goal or purpose, which can get lost in a myriad of details and questions.
Many Planned Parenthood organizers and supporters realized that volunteers could use more tools, information and a broader support network to talk to the media.
That is why PPGNHAIK (and Planned Parenthood affiliates across the country) have begun a new program for volunteers called the Storytelling Cohort.
Rebecca De León, Communications Manager at PPGNHAIK, explained that a Storyteller Cohort will operate as a speaker’s bureau - involving groups of volunteers who go through training at the same time.
“Volunteers who are interested will be selected to be storytellers. We will meet with them more often, and coach them on how to deal with stressors, how to talk to the media, as well as give guidelines for the most powerful ways to tell their story,” she explained. “They will go into it knowing what they need from us, and knowing what they need from themselves.” She added that the program will have options for supporters to share their stories confidentially.
De León emphasized the program will have mutual benefits for both volunteers and the organization. “Throughout the year, there are constant requests from the media for interviews with [Planned Parenthood] supporters. Calling on somebody last-minute can be messy for organizers, and a last-minute request can leave a speaker unprepared to deal with the media.”
With the Storytelling Cohort program, the organization will shed the logistical challenges of finding and prepping volunteers on short notice, while prioritizing the needs of those volunteers.
“Whether it’s video, social media, blurb in newsletter, photos, or in graphics, someone telling their story of success - however they use Planned Parenthood’s services - is the most important part of any type of communication we do,” said Katie Rogers, PPGNHAIK Communications Director.
Rogers explained that a powerful story calls people to action; it can connect people to their communities, locally and across the country. She explained the components of a powerful story can include why we work toward reproductive health care access, our choices and shared values, and what we are called to do urgently.
Over the past few months, Planned Parenthood organizers have been busy putting the first storytelling trainings into action. Washington served as the pilot for this program, and has seen great success in developing a tight-knit group of storytellers. The comms team is working with organizers in all the other states to replicate this success. Initial internal trainings to kick off the program by training organizers to identify storytellers and make the ask were successful, and staff are excited for the big public trainings with cohort hopefuls.
“November is the big kickoff training for the organizers and the cohorts,” said DeLeón.
She explained, “There are two ways to get involved [in the storytelling cohort trainings]: If you are already involved as a volunteer, you can contact one of the organizers in your state. If you would like to sign up for the first time, you can follow this link.”
To help Planned Parenthood create and sustain programs like the Storytelling Cohorts as they empower, connect, and lift up the voices of all supporters of reproductive health care, please consider making a gift.