Global Citizenship and the Importance of Storytelling

by Yoyo Z, Natasha S, Selena M, GIN Student Leaders

On Saturday November 6th, 2021, members of the Global Issues Network (GIN) at Concordia International School Shanghai gathered at school to participate in a writing workshop led by Concordia's Service Learning Coach, Mrs. Lavender, via pre-recorded video lessons. 

Marked by their willingness to be on campus over the weekend, a group of dedicated high school students eagerly participated in a mix of engaging activities throughout the workshop. When asked about the experience, GIN member Yoyo Z remarked that she left the workshop “not only equipped with skills about how to effectively tell stories, but also with a deeper understanding about why we tell stories.” 

The writing workshop was hosted by the GIN student leadership committee with an aim to equip members with the skills needed to effectively advocate for the advancement of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. As a group of students who strive to be global citizens and take action through various projects to target all sorts of Sustainable Development Goal-related issues, the GIN network is often humming with activity as each subgroup works on their own initiatives. This year, GIN is home to six subgroups: The Lily Project, New Beginnings, Food Sustainability, Shanghai Styles, Amity, and Bye Bye Plastic Bags. Just to name a few projects within GIN at the moment, the Lily Project is currently working on a bingo night benefit event to fund education for girls in rural China; Shanghai Styles is sending off clothing donations and prepping for a round of ‘sustainable sales’ at the Christmas Bazaar; and Amity is planning their Dressember campaign for human trafficking awareness. Witnessing all that these incredible GIN groups accomplish, it seems only right that their work is shared with the wider community to spread awareness about the issues they care about. Through articles, social media posts, videos, podcasts and more, actively displaying the actions of these students can lead to the betterment of our community as a whole.

The workshop featured a balance of video lessons and hands-on application. Guided by Mrs. Lavender, the participating GIN members were asked thought-provoking questions and presented with prompts to kickstart their GIN storytelling endeavors. Participants had ample time to gather in their subgroups and brainstorm potential storytelling ideas. Breakfast snacks and coffee, as well as cozy background music and the swishing of autumn wind outside the window created a relaxing atmosphere while subgroups went to work with brainstorming and planning.

Many participants left the workshop surprised at how many new ideas they were able to generate; some were even spurred on to create new action plans because of ideas that surfaced during the break-out sessions. All three GIN student leaders were excited about the success of the workshop and agreed that more workshops could be hosted in the future to further equip GIN members with skills to be effective changemakers: “This was such a great opportunity for GIN members to uncover how many storytelling ideas were actually hiding beneath the surface waiting for discovery,” says GIN student leader Natasha S. “It just took this workshop to give GIN members the courage to dig those ideas out.” 

As something humans have been doing for countless years, it’s clear that storytelling is vital and important. At the very beginning of the workshop, Mrs. Lavender asked an important question: “Why do we tell stories?” Through the course of the workshop, many students came to the conclusion that while we share stories for a myriad of reasons, two of the most significant explanations for the importance of storytelling are as follows: telling stories enables the storytellers themselves to reflect and come to a better understanding of the topic at hand, and telling stories serves to inform and inspire others. 

GIN member Chealer T sums up the latter sentiment with the short yet impactful remark, “change inspires change.” When people in our community are able to see the work that those around them are doing to change the world for the better, they too can be inspired to take action.