A meta narrative example from Blue Bradley & friends
"An example of my meta-narrative is a story about hospitality and building environments. Years ago I set out to create a place where others can dwell in healthy relationships and hopefully discover more of who they are. For me, this functioned best by building or developing something with others, because at heart I’m relational and a pioneer. I would rather create and build something than maintain or manage it. And because I have futuristic in my mix (from Strengths) I can imagine what the future might look like and then make that a reality by putting key steps in place and walking them out over time.
So, following Patrick’s model, the first act of this story would be when my wife and I met another crazy couple named Nigel and Cathy, who also loved providing great food, having people live with them, and creating community initiatives. We knew that living this way can be tough when you are doing it by yourself. So we started spending a lot of time together talking through scenarios and dreaming about the possibilities.
This leads to the second act. After talking about who we were, we asked what kind of community we would like to live in. Our combined story led us to settle in an eclectic old part of Auckland city called Kingsland. It had a raw feel to it with a strange mixture of down-and-outs and rich yuppies. It’s become a hot spot for night life as well as boutique fashion shops, restaurants, and of course cafes (where there are yuppies, good coffee will soon follow). Along with the highest young adult population in the city, this neighborhood represents a great mix of diverse cultures with European, Asian, and Pacific peoples all living nearby. All these aspects connected with our story where communal hospitality was a high value. We ended up buying a building complex with two apartments on the first floor and a shared deck. We can shut the doors and curtains if we want (rarely happens) or open up all the doors and make one big living space. This works out great for the kids that need to run around, and we have great kitchens which is where we’re presently running The Kingsland Cooking Club every week. Locals join in, learn to cook and meet other newbies while learning the craft, and eat amazing food.
At the rear of the ground floor there’s a warehouse space where the kids built skate ramps and have friends over to play. We also utilized the space to run community garage sales and Texas hold’ em poker nights raising funds for community initiatives. At the front of the ground floor were two retail spaces that sat side by side. One was an office space and the other was a pretty average café which was struggling to make it. I had my own commercial coffee machine (sits on my kitchen bench, ‘cause I’m serious about hospitality) and Nigel had been into coffee in a big way for years. Like a lot of people, we always thought there would be a café somewhere in the future, so when both our tenants moved out the obvious thing to do was to move in and push the story forward.
We’d never built a café before and didn’t really have a set plan of attack, but both Nigel and I have activator (Strengths) in our mix so we knew that the plan would unfold for us as we started working. We rebuilt the place from scratch using our community’s identity (as pioneers, innovators, designers, and foodies) in the process which developed into a great collaborative effort. For example, a large part of our surroundings are businesses. We also have a lot of artists and students that we wanted to get closer to. Then, there’s all those wonderful mums with push- chairs that need their caffeine fix... Design wise, there wasn’t one style that was going to cut it so we kinda went by braille and created an environment as eclectic as the neighborhood. We did have a couple of questions in the forefront of our minds like ‘what would make our community feel at home here’? and ‘what would we want to use this space for when the café wasn’t open’? We ended up with a mix of concrete, brick, native timber, and raw white plaster creating a number of different spaces like intimate areas with vintage couches, a combination of small to large tables, alcoves, and a massive community table made of recycled coffee sacks. People come in and feel right at home. Perfect.
There’s a lot more to my story (the third act), from how I use Woo (winning others over) on a day to day basis meeting people in the cafe, chatting, coaching etc., to hunting with my kids and developing retreats out in the wild for whole neighborhoods of people. This overall narrative gives me the freedom to do some crazy day to day stuff, like blocking the road with a free BBQ so the people I don’t yet know can stop for a bite and say hi. But my story also provides clues on how to be prepared for the longer-term implications, like running the next level of our huge (4,000 plus people) yearly youth camp, which is why I’m flying to London at the end of the month to see what similar organizations are doing... At the end of the day, if I know who I am throughout this story, I can join in with others and do some bigger things together. This kind of group identity is at the heart of any thriving neighborhood and it’s exactly what I’ve been looking for. And by looking for, I mean speaking it out and making it happen."