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The Ethics of Working with Story

Monday, September 23, 2019 -
2:00pm to 4:30pm PDT
Northern California Grantmakers
160 Spear Street, Suite 360 | San Francisco, CA
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Because stories are powerful, and because they are wholly owned by the person who shares them, we have an ethical obligation to use story in ways that do no harm. Our goal should be to lift, not exploit. Only when we use story ethically can people to be heard, respected, and celebrated.

This workshop goes beyond storytelling, and explores the ethics of asking for stories, attempting narrative change, and collecting, analyzing, and labeling stories. Participants will reflect on, refine, and plan for increasing the ethical approaches to their own work with story. Guided by Thaler’s expertise and facilitation, they will share their own ethical challenges and approaches and offer guidance and inspiration to each other. Our understanding of ethical storytelling is still unfolding as we consider more deeply our own role as storytellers and the people whose stories are being told. This session is designed for communications and program staff and may aid in bridging support for each others’ roles.

Join us to explore:

  • What is ethical storysharing
  • Embracing the ethics of emergence
  • What are the ethical organizational and interviewer accountabilities, and what does the storysharer themselves need to know?
  • Power and agency when working with people who are frequently stigmatized
  • Ethical considerations when working with medical stories
  • Obtaining truly informed consent
  • How to share stories ethically across communication platforms
  • Working with simplicity, complexity, and emotionality in story
  • How to sustain an ethical storysharing culture.


Thaler Pekar, Founder, Thaler Pekar & Partners

Thaler Pekar is an internationally-recognized pioneer in narrative and communication. Both the BBC and the Smithsonian Institution have hailed her as one of the world’s leading experts on institutional storytelling.

For 14 years, her firm, Thaler Pekar & Partners, has advised leaders on gaining understanding and influence. They deploy trademarked tools that provide people with the confidence to speak, listen, and be heard. And they guide visionaries in linking projects and challenges to the narrative of their institution’s past, present, and future. As a result, teams are more effective, audiences are more receptive, sales and income increase, and visibility rises.

Their award-winning work ranges from gathering 178 oral histories across four continents and six countries for Chuck Feeney’s The Atlantic Philanthropies; to finding and refining stories about integrity for Novartis senior leadership; to coaching a mainstage TED Talker; and to developing a Narrative Academy for international educators of L’Oreál. Thaler Pekar & Partners is nationally certified as a women-owned business from the Women’s Business Enterprise National Council.

Thaler’s curiosity has compelled her eclectic work: she has served as the public affairs director for a large Federally Qualified Community Health Center; as the communications director for The Children’s Health Fund; as the communications lead for a large Ford Foundation project on religious pluralism; and as a founding producer of State of Belief on Air America Radio. She is a Founding Member of the American College of Women’s Health Physicians. Her extensive studies include the Columbia University Medical Center Program in Narrative Medicine and the Columbia University Oral History Masters Program. Thaler is a visiting lecturer at the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications at Syracuse University Executive Masters program.

Thaler is featured in the books:

  • Working with Stories in Your Community or Organization: Participatory Narrative Inquiry
  • Circle of the 9 Muses: A Storytelling Field Guide for Innovators and Meaning Makers
  • Multimedia Storytelling for Digital Communicators in a Multiplatform World
  • Storied Careers: 40+ Story Practitioners Talk About Applied Storytelling
  • Parenting with a Story: Real-Life Lessons in Character for Parents and Children to Share

Thaler is a longtime resident of Hoboken, NJ, where she serves on the Historic Preservation Commission, and a more recent resident of Unadilla, NY. She has a cat named Truthiness, and she always crosses the street to walk on the sunny side.

Target Audience

This event is open to NCG members and nonmember communications professionals.


This program is offered through the generous sponsorship of the Blue Shield of California Foundation.

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