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Journey Metaphor

It is often useful for people engaged in community mobilization from different areas to have a common frame of reference that will allow them to compare and share learning, but will recognize the diverse and distinct nature of each local project. Finding ways for people from different communities to tell their stories to each other is important.

One way that the SPNO does this is to use a Journey Metaphor. Community projects can be like journeys - they have a destination, they are inspired by a vision and there are challenges, surprises and treasures to be found along the way. The journey is about traveling across a landscape. People have to learn to travel together and work things out on their journey. In fact the harmony or dissonance among the members of the journey may well determine the outcome of the journey through the landscape. Each journey has similar stages although the length and experiences within each stage can be different.

Design Studio participants can be asked to think of their past project experiences and anticipated future project experiences "as a journey", perhaps modeling it after some well-known journeys in classical or popular culture (e.g. The Wizard of Oz, Lord of the Rings, etc.). It can be both fun and illuminating for participants to think about and develop their story in this way, to be creative in words, pictures, even music, and to interpret their story to each other and others after the telling/showing.

(The journey metaphor method was developed by Mike Balkwill, Principal Facilitator for the Closing the Distance Project and Consulting Associate with the SPNO)

The Journey


The following "guide" to creating the story can be given to participants in using the journey metaphor.

The Heroes/Heroines - The heroes/heroines have a special skill set that is yet untapped, that will be drawn out and shaped in the journey. This special skill set (be it the purity and goodness of a fairytale heroine, or a special technical ability, or the spiritual or intuitive or emotional awareness found in a wholevariety of genres) is central to the plot and character development within a story.

Beginning Crisis - The beginning crisis is what starts the story out; it may be the first sequence in which we are introduced to our hero, or it can have occurred in our heroine's past (and only be referred to in the story). In many stories, it is not the root problem, but a presenting problem. In some cases our hero becomes involved accidentally, in others, it is the first example of the use of the heroine's skill set that gets them involved.

The Gateway/ Gatekeeper - After the crisis and just before or at the very beginning of thejourney, our hero must pass through a gateway guarded by a gatekeeper. In fairy stories this can be the old crone, or monster, or troll, which blocks the path. Thepassagepast the gatekeeper doesnotneed to be purposeful; in the Wizard of Oz, Dorothy accidentally kills the gatekeeper (the witch)The passage through the gateway often earns the hero something - once past the crone, she will offer a cryptic suggestion, once having killed the witch, you get the ruby shoes.

Orientation to the New Landscape - Once past the gateway and its keeper, the heroine enters the new landscape. It is within this landscape that the hero will discover and test her special skills. This can be the dark forest, a new planet, a dusty town, the wilds, etc. The landscape itself holds both many perils, and the keys to drawing out the heroine. The hero must learn new customs, new languages, and new concepts.This facilitates the journey companions getting to know each other.

Journey Companions - Invariably, some companions along the way join the heroine. Typically thesecompanionsare drawn to the hero's special skills. Whether the Tin Man, ora collection of animals (think of the Witch and the Wardrobe, or Alice in Wonderland), or a creature from the new planet, - the journeycompanion befriends the heroine and helps familiarize the hero to the new landscape, and encourages the heroine to use/ hone their special skills.

Bonding Crisis - Along the journey, as the hero is learning about the new landscape, there is a minor crisis that further bonds the heroine to the landscape, her journey companions, and her special skills. At different times, for different reasons members of the journey become afraid or worried or doubtful about the success of the journey and companions will have to re-assure each other.

Preparations - The central crisis towards which the story is moving begins to become apparent, and the hero and his companions must prepare. This may involve battles, hardships, travel, tricksters, an appeal to the gods, fate, or destiny, etc. Inevitably the heroine is asked to question herself as to whether her special skills will be enough. In many fairy tales, this is a series of three trials, similar in pattern. In sci fi, this is oftenthe full initiation of the hero into the new landscape and its inhabitants.In a dreaming, this is the realm of the trickster, taunting and teasing our heroine.

Central Crisis - In this last sequence, the hero discovers who he really is; comes into the realization of his full powers (that special skill set), and overcomes the bad guys, and typically in the process, conquers the meaning or driving force or root cause of the original (beginning) crisis.

Resolution - at the end, the heroine must look back over the journey and come into awareness of the changes that they have undergone. It is in this scene that the romance resolves itself, and the hero decides whether they will remain in the new landscape, or take their special skills back to the old landscape. The journey companions are given new roles.The hero reflects on all that has happened.

© Social Planning Network of Ontario