OpenIDEO is an open innovation platform. Join our global community to solve big challenges for social good. Sign Up / Login or Learn more

Ideation Insight: The Impact of a Single Story

As we enter the Ideation Phase, I think we should remember the power in the single story. Our perceptions and our understanding of a people, a community, and a culture are going to impact how we interact together. It is important for us to remember that a "single story" does not define an entire people. Instead, we must look for the overlapping web of stories for true cultural understanding. In her TED talk, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie's talks about the power of the single story, and how it can influence and inhibit our understanding of different cultures.

Photo of Andrew Peterson
4 1

Written by

"When we reject the single story, when we realize that there is never a single story about any place, we regain a kind of paradise."  These were the closing remarks of Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie's TED talk, " The danger of a single story"  Our lives, our cultures, our identites are the composition of many overlapping stories, but if we hear only a single story of a person, country, or culture, we are at the risk of a critical misunderstanding.

But what is the danger of a single story, and why does this concern our efforts in this project?  
          Single stories do not convey an accurate picture of a culture.  The single story can include stereotypes, ideologies, and cultural hegemony.  Through the single story, those in power can influence how we as a society view other cultures.  This is dangerous because we are falsely about different cultures and the problems they face. The single story is not a holistic view of the problem, and therefore, we do not have a holistic approach to the problem.
            I believe that our goal is to create a solution that is designed for the environment we are working in, and if we have an inaccurate view of the people, the places, and the things we are trying to help, then how can we help them?  How can we help children thrive in their communities if we don't even make the effort to learn about their communities?
            Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie is right about the danger of the single story.  She said, "the single story creates stereotypes, and the problem with stereotypes is not that they are untrue, but that they are incomplete.  They make one story become the only story." In order for us to be successful, we must understand the whole story because the single story "robs people of dignity.  It makes recognition of equal humanity challenging," and we must remember that while we are trying to solve these problems, our communities are no different than the communities we are trying to help; they just have a different set of problems.
            Remember what Chimamanda Adichie said as we go forth in the ideation phase, "Stories matter. Many stories matter. Stories have been used to dispossess and to malign, but stories can also be used to empower and to humanize. Stories can break the dignity of a people, but stories can also repair that broken dignity."

Is this an idea that you or your organization would like to take forward?

  • This idea is meant to inspire. I hope someone else takes it on!


Join the conversation:

Photo of Brown


View all comments