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What’s the Story?

How do you motivate people? In the Jewish-environmental movement, it seems that we share fact after fact about the environmental challenges we face, and list after list of things that people can do to make a difference. We’ve also gotten good at telling people what Jewish values should motivate them, and bringing them outdoors to grow food or see the beauty of nature.

While we’ve made some headway as a movement, we certainly have not mastered environmental motivation in the Jewish community.

The key to understanding motivation is that it comes from the heart, not from the head. We touch people at the level of values not by sharing sources and facts and actions, but by sharing stories.

With the support of the ROI community, on June 2, Jewcology hosted our second Jewcology Public Narrative Training at the Teva Seminar on Jewish Environmental Education. Utilizing the “leadership story” techniques developed by Harvard Professor Marshall Ganz , participants learned how to identify and tell powerful stories that can express our purpose, unite our community and inspire meaningful shared action. The training is based on the famous Hillel dictum:

“If I am not for myself, who will be for me? But if I am only for myself, who am I? And if not now, when?” (Pirkei Avot 1:14)


The training was a part of Teva’s “Eco-Change Makers Track.” Rachel Konforty, an experienced trainer in the public narrative methodology, led the training along with Matt Lewis and Evonne Marzouk. The training was similar to the one offered on March 14 at the Kayam Beit Midrash, but also incorporated the excellent feedback provided at that session: additional time focusing on the Jewish environmental context and applications of this tool, and additional Jewish context to ground us in our tradition.

The essence of the training was organized around three different “stories” which one defines for oneself and the group: the story of self, the story of us, and the story of now.

  • Self: Participants were invited to identify their own personal story so that they can explain how they because committed to Jewish-environmental activism.
  • Us: Drawing upon common values with the group in the room, each participant had to identify a “story of us” which would resonate with the values of all the people there.
  • Now: Finally, participants were asked to identify a story of now: one single, specific, urgent action that could be requested of all the participants.

Following the session, attendees completed an online evaluation suvery. 100% of respondents indicated feeling more empowered to speak to their target engagement audience, 90% indicated that they felt more empowered to speak to people who do not share the same Jewish or environmental values; and 90% indicated that they planned to use this model in speaking to one or more of their primary engagement audiences. 100% also indicated that they would recommend this model or this training to a friend or colleague.

Participants indicated that they intended to use this tool with a wide range of audiences, including educators, synagogue members, potential funders, students, and local environmental groups. Attendees also indicated that they would be interested in continuing to use the Jewcology community to support them, including by using the Jewcology "Leadership Trainings" Community to continue discussions, attending follow-up trainings, connecting with the global Jewish environmental community through Jewcology (70%), and meeting with others in their region (60%),

Asked how to improve the session, participants indicated they would appreciate more time, more model stories, and providing more opportunity and resources for follow up. We’ll have the chance to implement these improvements at our third Jewcology leadership training, which will take place on August 21 as a bonus day to the Hazon Food Conference at UC-Davis! We’ll be offering the same training with the improvements described.

This training will help you develop your own personal Jewish-environmental story, connect with the values in a group of others, and ask for meaningful shared action. We hope you will join us there!

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