The Power of Human Connection

The Power of Human Connection

Storyteller Wins $1 Million Ted Prize

Every year, the folks at TED Talks award a $1 million TED Prize to “a leader with a bold, innovative vision for sparking global change.” The money is intended to help winners “inspire the world” by making one ambitious “wish” come true. Past winners include an undersea explorer, educational researcher, epidemiologist, and astronomer, among others. The 2015 prize went to a storyteller, Dave Isay of StoryCorps.

Everyone Has a Story

StoryCorps collects and archives 40-minute interviews between two everyday people, usually friends or family members. Any topic is fair game. The project is based on the premise that everyone has a story and every life matters. Interviews might include general questions, such as a child asking a parent, “What’s the best advice you ever got?” They might be more specific. In one interview, a mother recounts her journey crossing the U.S.-Mexico border illegally. Another features the story of two parents who lost their son to a rare childhood illness.

To date 60,000 interviews with more than 90,000 participants have been recorded. Currently story recording is limited to select locations in the U.S. The TED prize will help Isay expand StoryCorp internationally.

If you’d like to hear some of the stories, you can tune in weekly to NPR. You can also visit to browse featured stories. The interviews are so important to American history they’re all stored in the Library of Congress. Isay suspects he curates the largest collection of the human voice every recorded.

Do Stories Really Matter?

It might seem like stories couldn’t possibly be as important as environmental conservation, modern medicine, or scientific research. Here’s an explanation from StoryCorps’ website that sheds some light on just how powerful stories are:

“We do this to remind one another of our shared humanity, to strengthen and build the connections between people, to teach the value of listening, and to weave into the fabric of our culture the understanding that everyone’s story matters. At the same time, we are creating an invaluable archive for future generations.”

Isay imagines incredibly powerful applications of storytelling—resolving wars, documenting history, combating prejudice, sharing wisdom, and more—all possible through simple, authentic human connectivity.

Why You Should Take Notice

It’s remarkable that the 2015 TED prize recognized the value of storytelling and its potential to change the world. We should take notice. Imagine how collecting and documenting your organization’s stories might change your community, your industry, or an even larger circle. Imagine if you could preserve the collective wisdom of your grey-haired members who are about to retire and take all their knowledge with them. Or maybe you should preserve the perspective of the next generation—to determine how you can best serve them. Who might you attract? How many lives might you change?

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