Teen advocate? 50+ advocate? We want to hear from you.

Photo by dmbaker/iStock / Getty Images
Photo by dmbaker/iStock / Getty Images

What does advocating with a personal story look like when you’re a teen? When you’re in your fifties, sixties, seventies and beyond?

Like so many others, I’ve been moved and motivated over the past month by high school students around the nation who’ve made the choice to stand up, speak out and share their lived experiences to create change, whether that change is stricter gun control, better mental health care or other important causes.

And over the past few weeks, I’ve also been inspired by the “50 over 50 List,” a roundup of Minnesotans 50+ who are doing amazing things. The list is compiled annually by AARP Minnesota and Pollen Midwest, and I can’t help notice how many of these individuals landed on the list, in part, by sharing their personal stories in order to advocate for the causes they passionately believe in.

Reflecting on generational stories and advocacy got a few of us at Living Proof Advocacy wondering: How does the experience of sharing a personal story for advocacy differ for someone 17, 30, 45 or 79? Tell us what you think: If you’re a teen advocate or someone 50+ who is telling your story to make a difference, contact us. We’re working with author Bev Bachel on an article about this topic and would love to hear your experiences and insights.

Contact us to be interviewed.

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In this issue: Are you 50+ advocate who is telling your story to make a difference? Contact us to be interviewed for an upcoming article.

The Living Proof Advocacy email newsletter, which contains updates on the latest events and workshops as well as inspirational stories from advocates who are making a difference with their personal stories, is sent approximately 3-4 times a year. 


Announcing Coaching Certification from Living Proof Advocacy


Tim Cage and John Capecci, co-founders of Living Proof Advocacy™, are delighted to launch the Living Proof Advocacy Coaching Certification program. Developed and honed over nearly 20 years of working with thousands of advocates and hundreds of organizations, the Living Proof Advocacy methods, principles and tools are now available to coaches, trainers and instructors who want to help others tap the persuasive power of their personal stories. 

Coaching certification is ideal for

  • professional trainers who want added expertise in the area of story + advocacy
  • organizational staff who are responsible for mobilizing advocates

Certification is delivered in 2-day regional trainings led by Tim and/or John. The 2018 training is scheduled for November 17-18 in Minneapolis. Additional trainings may be offered to accommodate schedules and locations. Read more and contact us for details!

Sign Up for a 2018 Workshop

Telling Your Story to Make a Difference: Fundamentals

A two-day workshop offered three times in 2018 —

April 20-21, Minneapolis

July 27-28, Minneapolis

November 30-December 1, Minneapolis

These highly interactive and individualized workshops focus on personal storytelling for advocacy and are delivered through discussion, tips and tools, plus in-class exercises followed by immediate feedback and encouragement. Participants learn how to find, focus, frame, craft and tell personal stories to become better advocates for the difference they want to make in their community and in the world.

Friday, 2:00-6:00p

Saturday, 10:00-4:00p

For more information:

VISIT: livingproofadvocacy.bpt.me

EMAIL: info@livingproofadvocacy.com

CALL: 612.512.1177

Why "Pointing to the Positive" Can be Tough

"Pointing to the positive" is one of The 5 Qualities of Well-Told Advocacy Story and it serves as one of the most important foundations of the Living Proof Advocacy approach. Sometimes, it's also one of the most difficult qualities for storytelling advocates to achieve ... for two perfectly understandable reasons:


1. Advocacy aims to solve a problem. Personal stories help make others aware of that problem and understand the severity of it. It's easy to let your storytelling focus primarily on the problem ... because that's what you want desperately to change and enlist others to help solve.

2. The personal stories that led you to advocacy often arise from places of anger, pain, even trauma and loss. Those experiences remain ever-present and likely are at the core of why you speak out. So, it's easy to let your storytelling dwell in the darkness.

But "pointing to the positive" doesn't mean denying the darkness or sugar-coating your experience; it means finding the balance between negative and positive ... and working to favor personal storytelling that demonstrates the positive change for which you're advocating. Why?

Because dwelling on the negative is human nature—not just for those of us telling stories, but for those of us receiving them. Studies have shown repeatedly that the brain is drawn to negative stories and it is often the negative that remains firmly in our memories. As an advocate, you want to move audiences to positive action, not leave them with only an understanding of the problem or the pain. An analysis of 60 health communication studies, for example, showed that stories focusing on loss were less likely to be effective than positive messages.

It's a tough balance to strike, most definitely. But "pointing to the positive" remains a critical quality of the well-told advocacy story, ensuring that you leave audiences with the hope that problems can be solved and the living proof that darkness truly can give way to light.

Advocate Zach Fincher: Safer Roads Start with You

It’s National Distracted Driving Awareness Month. Read this story from Zach Fincher, a teen advocate who attended a workshop we conducted recently for the National Safety Council. It’s one of the moving stories featured this month in this blog by Laura Carney, another dedicated advocate sharing her story to make a difference.


From Seclusion to Connection: Gayathri Ramprasad's Advocacy for Mental Health

“Pointing to the positive” is one of the five qualities of a well-told advocacy story we explore in Living Proof and in our advocacy workshops. Mental health advocate Gayathri Ramprasad recently provided a powerful example of this essential quality in her TEDx talk, “Be the Hope.”

Gayathri Ramprasad.jpg

Beginning in her late adolescence, Gayathri began to experience bouts of extreme anxiety and depression: “I could hardly eat, sleep or think straight. The only thing I could do was cry.” At the time, Gayathri was still living at home in Bangalore, India, in a traditional culture that had no concept of depression as an illness. Her parents insisted her agitation was all in her head.

The story she tells now as an advocate for mental health traces her thirty-year dual battle with depression and the associated stigma that constantly “tightened its noose around my neck.” As her story follows Gayathri into marriage, a move to the United States, and motherhood, there are many painful moments, such as when her husband discovers her in the backyard “clawing the earth furiously with my bare hands, intent on digging a grave so that I could bury myself alive.” Eventually, she is hospitalized and confined in the seclusion room of a psychiatric ward several times a week where she often felt “like a convict on death row.”

But Gayathri doesn’t end her story there. If she did, she would move us only from point A to point B—without providing a positive resolution or the promise of a brighter day. Here’s more of Gayathri’s story.

A defining moment came when Gayathri was a patient in the psychiatric ward, placed again in the seclusion room. Just before closing the door to the room, a nurse offered Gayathri words of compassion and strength that somehow triggered an awakening in her. In the night, she had a startling moment of clarity in which she promised to “fight to restore my dignity,” but also to bring hope to the lives of others. Gayathri looks to that moment as the start of her advocacy. Today, she’s a dedicated and vocal advocate for mental health, founder of ASHA International, and author of her published memoir. She’s working for a world “where every man, woman and child suffering from mental illness is provided the love and support they need to thrive in life.

Getting locked up had set me free to create a life of meaning and purpose.

“Pointing to the Positive,” means naming the positive change in you that has lead you to advocacy. It also points others to the positive change you want to see. Doing so, you

  • invite the audience to envision themselves as part of the positive change
  • help the audience make the connection between your specific life experiences and the issue or action that affects them or others
  • remind audiences that with your storytelling, you are ultimately asking something of them: to be more aware, change a behavior, adopt a new plan of action, or write a check that will help create change. Unless you point to the positive, better world, telling your story does not give your audience tangible reasons to care, reflect, or invest.

We congratulate Gayathri on her powerful advocacy and thank her for sharing her story with us. Read more of Gayathri’s story in Living Proof: Telling Your Story to Make a Difference