Writing for a Purpose: The Importance of Storytelling for Positive Social Change

February 19, 2023

Telling stories is one of the oldest and most powerful ways to effect change. Here’s how storytelling can be used to promote positive social change.

Photo by The New York Public Library on Unsplash

Under the scorching Spanish sun, a few miles East of the Portuguese border in Caceres, Spain, you’ll find a small hill shadowed by two gray apartment blocks. On the surface, there’s nothing truly significant about this hill.

It’s topped with weeds and a light hazing of grass but has a sharp drop to one side, revealing a cave. Known as the Maltravieso cave, to many, this would just be a hole in the side of the dirt, home to stones, rocks, and rubble.

But look closer, through the iron security bars and padlocked gates, and you’ll see something truly remarkable.

Cave paintings.

71 in total.

From hand prints to stencils of cows, buffalos, and other wild animals, these red marks are the oldest cave paintings known today, drawn by neanderthals, dating back over 64,000 years.

The first recorded stories by human beings.

What these drawings signify is up to interpretation. Are they marking territory? Logging the animals in the area? Broadcasting the tales of a legendary hunter that founded the tribe?

Either way, stories have been a part of human culture for thousands of years.

They have been used to entertain, educate, and evoke emotions in listeners. But beyond just being a source of entertainment, stories can shape our perceptions, beliefs, and attitudes toward the world around us.

Just look at the Bible.

In today’s society, where the world faces numerous social and environmental issues, storytelling has become a powerful tool for positive social change.

Sure, it’s used in many negative ways and can cause much damage. Fake news is prevalent, populism is rising, and worldwide discussions on human rights and climate change are often met with much resistance.

But storytelling also has the power to bring us together and inspire action.

By raising awareness, promoting understanding between different cultures, challenging traditional norms, and inspiring people to take action, stories can be used as a powerful tool for positive social change.

Here’s how.

What Makes Stories So Special?

The power of storytelling lies in its ability to humanize and personalize issues that may otherwise seem distant or abstract. Through stories, writers can bring attention to important issues and to inspire action in their audiences.

This isn’t just in the news but in our articles, tales, social media posts, and books. Stories now come in so many different forms; we are spoiled for choice regarding the content we can consume.

It’s certainly a blessing and a curse in many respects, but when we’re mindful about how stories are used and what stories we’re consuming, they can be a potent tool.

Take the example of Malala Yousafzai, a young Pakistani woman who became an international symbol of hope after she was shot by the Taliban in 2008.

Malala’s story highlights how education can be used as a way to empower communities and fight against extremism. It’s an inspiring story of resilience, courage, and hope that touched millions worldwide.

Or the countless social media campaigns that raise money in the wake of natural disasters that rock countries halfway around the world? 

Even a WaterAid advertisement is, in itself, the story of an individual or family in a developing country that doesn’t have access to clean water.

In the same way that stories have been used to communicate important messages and social values for thousands of years, they’re still being used today to inspire positive change worldwide.

Whether it’s a blog post on climate change or a powerful TED talk about gender equality, storytelling can help us bridge the gap between our beliefs and attitudes and inspire people to take action.

A well-crafted story can evoke empathy in the reader and help them understand the experiences of others in a way that statistics and facts alone cannot.

This is why storytelling has become a powerful tool for advocacy, activism, and social change.

The Benefits of Storytelling for Positive Social Change

There are several reasons why storytelling is so effective for positive social change. Here are some key benefits:

#1. It connects people across cultures and national borders

When you hear about the story of a Syrian refugee that’s left their city that still stings with the mist of chemical warfare, it can be really hard to connect with a person so far removed from your own experience. But if you hear their story, it helps build bridges of understanding between the two cultures and allows us to see them as human too.

Storytelling can bridge cultural and national boundaries, allowing us to relate to people from all walks of life, no matter where they’re from.

#2. It encourages empathy

Storytelling is a powerful way to evoke emotion in the reader or listener, helping them connect to the story on an emotional level. This can be incredibly powerful in inspiring empathy and understanding, which is essential in creating positive social change.

#3. It helps create shared values

Storytelling allows us to explore different perspectives and ideas, helping us come together around a shared set of values and principles. This is particularly important when promoting social change, as this shared set of values provides a foundation from which we can take action.

#4. It helps us understand different perspectives

Stories can help us understand the perspectives of others in a way that facts and figures cannot, allowing us to be more open-minded and less judgmental. This is especially important when tackling issues like racism, sexism, and other forms of discrimination.

#5. It raises awareness of important issues

By bringing attention to important issues, stories can encourage people to take action. Whether it’s a blog post about the impacts of climate change or a powerful speech about social injustice, storytelling can help amplify these messages and spur people to make a difference.

#6. It inspires people to take action

Storytelling helps us understand why an issue is important and how we can create positive change. This can be incredibly powerful in motivating people to take action and work together to create a better world.


In conclusion, storytelling is a powerful tool for positive social change.

By humanizing and personalizing important issues, raising awareness, inspiring change, and promoting positive values and messages, writers can make a real difference in the world.

By doing so, they can help to create a better world for all.

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