I first learned about Aaron Foley when I came across a CNN story on his role as the official Chief Storyteller for Detroit. I love the art of storytelling and I’m originally from Detroit so this profile on CNN resonated with me.
I added Aaron to my list of targeted interviews and began my research. It didn’t take long for me to realize Aaron is a kindred spirit. We both have a complicated relationship with our hometown, we are both a bit of a smart ass (take a look at his book How to Live in Detroit Without Being a Jackass), we both believe Faygo Red Pop is easily the best flavor they have, and we both believe it is important to balance a city’s regeneration while respecting and maintaining its history and culture.
The role of a Chief Storyteller (CSO) isn’t a new concept. Microsoft’s Steve Clayton has held this role since 2010 and IBM’s Louis Richardson is always fascinating to listen to. Aaron is simply the first and only Chief Storyteller I’m aware of for a major city and appointed by a government official (Detroit’s Mayor Duggan).
This is a move I applaud and one that I wish more cities adopt going forward. This is modernizing (or digitizing) the age old practice of telling a community’s oral history. Ages ago this happened over a fire or in a tribe’s communal space. The desire to listen to stories is an innate human characteristic, one we can’t afford to lose as we become more and more dependent upon technology in our everyday lives.
This is both Aaron’s and Detroit’s story.