I work for international NGOs (or charities for those keen to avoid jargon!) as a communicator, photographer, videographer and writer. Storytelling is a big part of what I do, perhaps the biggest part. I care about making sure the voice of some of the world’s poorest people is heard. I believe the way we work alongside people can have a powerful impact on those that participate in and those that view the visual messages and stories that we produce. Storytelling has been part of the human experience for as long as we have record of that experience. Philip Pullman once said, “After nourishment, shelter and companionship, stories are the thing we need most in the world.” I think I agree.

I look to lots of sources for inspiration as a storyteller and so today thought I would share five TED Talks that I believe have something important or challenging to say about storytelling.

“The Danger of a Single Story” – Chimamanda Adichie

Without a doubt my favourite Ted Talk on storytelling. “The single story creates stereotypes, and the problem with stereotypes is not that they are untrue, but that they are incomplete” says Chimamanda Adichie in this moving and thought-provoking speech. As someone who regularly travels to the wide and diverse continent of Africa I identify strongly with Chimamanda’s concern that when we hear the same story over and over again it becomes the only story we believe. This seems especially true of the story of Africa. Africa has become a country rather than a continent. A land of rural landscapes, lions and mud huts. A land of poverty and worry. A land beyond repair. This is one story of Africa, it is not necessarily untrue but it is a very simplistic version of the truth and one that misses the complex, chaotic, wonderful, dreadful, happy and sad mix of what makes up life in 55 countries. Yes Africa has poverty, but it also has vast wealth and everything between. Yes Africa has rural landscapes, but also exotic seascapes and bustling urban hubs. Yes Africa has mud huts, but also skyscrapers, shopping malls, tin shacks and blocks of flats. We should all challenge the single story.

“The Technology of Storytelling” – Joe Sabia

We do not need technology to tell a story, that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t use it though! A great Ted Talk for all those storytellers wanting to dabble in digital. Whether we embrace it, or not, we are living in a digital era. Here Joe Sabia takes the audience on a storytelling journey with his IPad

“The Politics of Fiction” – Elif Shafak

Literature is a natural home for storytelling and yet that storytelling is shaped and reshaped by our own political boundaries and cultural compass. Here Elif Shafak talks about the cultural ghettos we find ourselves in and the escape stories can offer us from those ghettos. I love this talk as it makes me think time and time again about whether identity politics shape how I write or shape how I perceive what I read. Fiction can cut across all boundaries, the story can transport us. Personally this talk always challenges me to avoid lumping literature into certain categories and encourages me to remember that fiction can take me beyond the neat lines and stereotypes we form for ourselves in our ‘real world’