In 2013, when I was 22 and a student of International Affairs at the University of St.Gallen, I took a course called Alternative models of development taught by Professor Alexander Schieffer. I was strongly interested in development and “alternative“ always sounds good. The course turned out to be a real eye opener. After three years of being taught my university’s very particular world view, I suddenly had to confront long-established, sometimes quite dusty, perceptions of economics and development. Additionally, we were engaging with topics like spirituality, that most professors at my University would not even dare to touch with a stick.
One of the alternative models introduced in the course was Sekem, a cultural initiative aimed at sustainable development in Egypt – and a partner organisation of Trans4m. Intrigued by Sekem and strongly attracted to Egypt, I decided to enrol in a Trans4m Junior Fellowship, in relation to Sekem. I did not decide on a topic beforehand, as I wanted to see first what would be of importance to this established community, which was raising its forth generation. Soon, I felt that despite the truly inspirational story behind the creation and perseverance of Sekem and a tightly knitted core community, there was something missing. While Sekem managed to inspire many people outside its organisation, something within its organisational culture was blocking the inspirational flow within, thwarting the individual and collective potential.
After two months I finally, and quite accidentally, stumbled over my topic: Storytelling. During a PhD workshop lead by Alexander Schieffer and Ronnie Lessem, I was invited to join the group for a storytelling evening. We met in a circle and everyone was to tell a true story, which had had a profound impact on one’s life and perspective. I soon realised that the richness of the others’ life experiences far outreached my own. I felt like I had no story to tell. Fortunately, escape was not a possibility. To this day I have a hard time to express the impact of that moment. As soon as I started talking, people were reacting, nodding, smiling, laughing, engaging with my story. I had a story to tell just like the others; I had a voice and I felt like I belonged to this group. Since that night, I learned that storytelling builds and strengthens communities, empowers and inspires, creates and multiplies knowledge and naturally induces action towards change. All of these are fundamental for integral development on an individual, organisational, societal and even global level. Combining all of these elements into one, storytelling constitutes an inherently integral tool for change. It was for that reason, that I then focused my own transformative contribution to Sekem on Integral Storytelling as a Tool for Organisational Change.
My experience in Egypt has had a profound impact. While continuing my studies in International Affairs, I have expanded into journalism, photography and film-making, aspiring to be a “professional” storyteller. In my case, the Junior Fellowship with Trans4m has been exceptionally transformational, leading me to my true passion.