Reciprocity: Your Story Becomes Part of Mine

—By Joyce Ji

A woman holding a Tim Hortons coffee cup stands beside a man sitting down

Over the past eight months of my internship as an environmental planner at Narratives Inc., I have strived to internalize their values and operational approaches. Narratives’ approach to relationship building, their dedication to sustainability, their deliberate integration of UNDRIP, their mindful practice of trauma management and trauma-informed work, and most importantly, their story and the value placed in storytelling. These principles and values have inspired me during my time here and have now become an integral part of who I am. However, one word not mentioned yet that encapsulates Narratives to me and the lessons I have learned from my time here is “Reciprocity.” 

Reciprocity is one of Narratives’ corporate social responsibilities and is fundamental to how Narratives leads, works, and behaves. Reciprocity is the practice of exchanging things with others for mutual benefit, however, at Narratives, reciprocity means more than that. Reciprocity means accountability, commitment to mutual learning and understanding, reinvestment in each other, collaboration, and, above all, relationships.

My first time experiencing the true meaning of reciprocity was during an engagement with one of our partner communities. During this engagement, for the first time in my life, I was given the opportunity to listen to Survivors’ firsthand accounts of their experience at residential school. This was a completely new experience for me and a different type of respect and relationship than I have ever experienced. It was inspiring to see the trust and vulnerability shared between everyone, and it was that trust and respect that has made the stories shared with me, unintentionally but entirely, become a part of my own story.

This level of respect and trust continued throughout my internship, not just on engagements but daily in the office. As team members, we are constantly striving to build strong relationships with our partners and clients, with each other, and ourselves and to continuously nurture these relationships throughout our time spent together and apart. 

Close up of two people's hands pointing while working together with papers on a table

When I started at Narratives, one of the first things that stood out to me was the absence of a traditional direct supervisor. When questioned, Somia Sadiq (Founder) explained that this intentional absence fosters accountability within the team. It promotes growth and empowers staff to discover a unique path for themselves. This granted me the freedom to cultivate my role within Narratives in my own unique way and to take on tasks and projects in a way traditional internships would not allow. I was given the freedom to lead tasks that inspired me, to learn from projects that challenged me, and to connect with every person and project in my own way. Thanks to this trust and freedom to explore, I was able to contribute my best to Narratives.

Narratives has taught me so much about myself and how I relate to others, and I am incredibly thankful for the experiences I have had and the people I’ve met during my time here. I intend to apply all the lessons I’ve learned during the last eight months on how to build long-lasting and meaningful relationships, the value of trust as fuel for accountability, and the power of inviting the stories you’re told to be a part of your own, with me into all my future endeavours. 

Joyce Ji, Planning Intern