Shifting narratives by meeting people where they are at

This is an image of a white guy in a jeans and a dark blue hoodie who is screaming into the receiver of a payphone and gesturing angrily.
This is an image of a white guy in a jeans and a dark blue hoodie who is screaming into the receiver of a payphone and gesturing angrily.
Photo by Alexandra Mirgheș on Unsplash

Last year I wrote about coming out very publicly in my 2012 TEDx talk for the sake of telling an authentic story — which was after all, partly the focus of my talk. I originally wasn’t planning on including that particular part of my life story, but after some hearty encouragement from my speaker coach, I embraced the fear and changed the talk to include more personal details of my life. As it turned out, the speaker coach was right as a number of people have since shared that they were inspired by my willingness to be vulnerable and authentic.

Re-authoring my inherited narratives of colonisation in Aotearoa New Zealand

I am a Pākēhā New Zealander. For the benefit of those reading from outside of New Zealand, what that means is that I am a Kiwi of European or non-Māori descent. In my case in particular, a half-Swiss, half 6th generation New Zealander of English and Irish ancestry.

This heritage means that by and large, most of the stories and narratives that I inherited about the European colonisation of Aotearoa (the Māori name for New Zealand) while I was growing up were told through an overwhelmingly Pākēhā lens. They discount, cancel, and suppress the stories of those who were here…

Overcoming the Dualistic Mind to Save the World

Photo credit: Wiktionary

The Roman god Janus is depicted with two faces. As the god of new beginnings and transitions, the month of January was named after him — he is thought to be simultaneously looking behind at the year that has been, and forward to the year ahead. After the year that was 2020, many of us probably don’t want to be looking back, but rather forwards.

The faces of Janus are also symbolic of paradox, something that is uncomfortable for many of us. We humans tend to rely a lot on dualistic thinking — where every this must have a corresponding…

A double ended silver wrench that is curved in the middle, against a black backdrop
A double ended silver wrench that is curved in the middle, against a black backdrop
Photo by Matt Artz on Unsplash

I was warned. Be crystal clear on your audience. I was absolutely, duly warned. In fact, I even warned myself. Show, don’t tell. Human hearts and minds are convinced by story, not heavy rational arguments laced with statistics, facts, and figures. Those things are important for policy design, but what makes individuals act is a compelling story.

Last month I had a pivotal conversation with a couple of people who I had engaged with to help me with getting my upcoming book out there. It was one of those conversations which goes totally completely in a different direction than you…

Short reviews of what has inspired and entertained me this year.

Photo by Jason Leung on Unsplash

In late 2019, I decided to start recording all the books I read in a spreadsheet. Call me a geek, or an obsessive life-long learner, but it’s a habit I’ve decided to take forward into my life. After recording each book I read for a little over a year and jotting down some brief thoughts on them, I thought others might benefit from hearing my hot takes.

I guess I should begin with a disclaimer and say that these books were actually read over the past 14 months since I decided to start recording what I read, rather than a…

When our Stories of Self No Longer Serve Us

Photo by Den Trushtin on Unsplash

As I entered my final year of primary school at age 10, I had one singular wish. I wanted nothing more than to be a student road warden who helped kids to cross the road at the pedestrian crossings near our school.

I wanted to wear the bright orange vest. I wanted to swing out the big orange signs. I wanted to have the power to stop traffic, and to be seen as the responsible one who was providing a public service. …

Individualism has failed. Time for a new narrative of unity.

Photo by Steve Leisher on Unsplash

Whenever I feel depressed about the degree to which people are disconnected from each other these days, I watch videos of flash mobs on the Internet. There is something magical about watching dozens of people in a busy place seemingly going about their every day individual lives suddenly disrupting the illusion of separation and coming together as one cohesive, cooperative unit. The look of pure delight on the faces of bystanders who happened to be in the right place at the right time has an essence of unadulterated joy that we seldom see on strangers. …

Systems change needs to start with culture change

There’s a scene in the HBO show Silicon Valley that parodies a large-scale tech conference. As each guy (and it’s always a guy) takes to the stage to present their latest tech solution, they all weave into their speech how they are “making the world a better place” through a variety of obscure high-tech products and software services. As with any half-decent parody, the meme is firmly grounded in reality, with the frame of changing the world being hugely popular in the real Silicon Valley and beyond. …

On story-listening, othering, and finding common ground

Photo by Jean Wimmerlin on Unsplash

Back in early January, I had an eye-opening experience deep out in the New Zealand bush (translation: thick forest). Unlike most of my eye-opening experiences out in the bush, which usually pertain to the wonder of nature and the incredible intricacies of it all, this one was firmly rooted in the human experience and highlighted the importance of deep story-listening.

I was tramping with my father and sister in Te Urewera, one of New Zealand’s most incredible regions of natural beauty. …

Authenticity, coming out, and the messy art of getting vulnerable

The day I pushed send on the first draft of my TEDxChristchurch talk to the speaker coach who was assisting with crafting engaging narratives, I knew that I wasn’t 100% comfortable with the draft and that something was missing.

Telling the story of how I had discovered the world of slam poetry and its power to shift thinking and drive behaviour change, I had at one point alluded to “something crazy going on at that point in my life”, going on to say that I had learned a great deal about myself. It was completely general, giving no clues as…

Alina Siegfried

Storytelling | Narrative | Systems Change | Spoken Word | Currently writing a book on storytelling, narrative & systems change |

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