Storytents Pilot Project - 8 years on

quality storytents
[It] was only in the context of a pilot project, freed of the constraints of established program policies and practices, that we recognized our responsibility to innovate. We had the freedom to change things because it was a pilot.... We now believe that [we] need to treat every program like a pilot.
Beyond the checklist:
Using reflective practice to remove barriers in family and community literacy
Literacies, 9-2008

I mentioned last post that we've been doing some thinking about the contradictions and stresses that have been growing in our community literacy work. The work itself remains sound, but the way we've organized it has begun to fit poorly due to changed circumstances and, admittedly, a bit of experimenting.

Consider the image above, taken eight years ago. The sign is out-dated because we have different funders this year, but that's hardly surprising. More significant, the buildings in the background have all been torn down. Now, no families live in this neighbourhood because, well, it isn't a neighbourhood. Yet, we keep running a storytent and bookwagon combination program that was shaped, in large part, out of long conversations with those families.

Things change. Responsive literacy providers change with them.

But how to change? What direction to move in this winter of adult and family literacy work?

Today, in a rare pause, my colleague and I had time to finish a conversation and plot a new course for the next 12 to 18 months.

No. That's probably the wrong metaphor - "plot" implies too much certainty and fixedness. But we have a plan of sorts. We can start having conversations, start roughing out a budget and proposal.

What tickled me about this, today, was that it happened in the storytent, while we were waiting for kids. We didn't have to have some damn fool visioning process. There was no flip-chart paper involved. Nobody mediated or moderated. We didn't need to utilize social platforms to amplify experiences and drive conversations, much less engage assets to act as focal points for discussion. And though we were realistic about funding, we didn't shape our plans to tap maybe-available monies.

We just said, "I'm unhappy with this" and "Remember when we used to do that - that worked well" and "But there's a reason we stopped, which was this bit" and "So how do we do something like that without losing the other thing?" And stuff like that, until we had some pictures of how we could reach the same goals differently.

Then the kids showed up and we had to read/sing Five Little Monkeys a bunch of times.

But we agreed, at lunch, that we felt better - felt like we were moving forward again.

Nothing is settled, of course. There are still lots of possibilities. And maybe, in the end, things won't look very different at all.

Although... I know a neighbourhood in East Saint John with about 250 low-income family units, and no easy access to adult and family literacy services of any sort.

I'm just saying.

literacy work in east saint john

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