Phillippa Kabali-Kagwa
Phillippa Kabali-Kagwa

I am a facilitator, coach, storyteller, poet and author.  I have lived in various parts of East and Southern Africa, working in the fields of education, learning, leadership and development, on the continent and abroad.


A large part of my work has focused on change and leadership development with a special interest in personal leadership. I am skilled at holding spaces for challenging conversations. Drawing on a variety of theories and frameworks, I use creative methodologies, like story, song and metaphor, and coaching to enable deep reflection, leadership learning and to facilitate rich and courageous conversations. I choose to work across sectors – corporate, NGO and Education – because people are at the center of my work.



Photo cred: Gerald Petersen, Cape Town

Ben Okri says, “Stories are the secret reservoir of values: change the stories individuals and nations live by and tell themselves, and you change the individuals and nations.”


Over the last seven years I have focused a large part of my work on story:

  1. the use of story as a tool for learning, reflection and teaching;
  2. the performing of oral stories and poetry – and the hosting of spaces for people to share stories;
  3. writing memoir and poetry.


I am developing a methodology that I call Storywell – inspired by work I co-facilitated with Dorian Haarhoff in 2008. It is based on three assumptions:

  1. There is a well of stories that we can draw on to learn, teach, reflect, inspire. We both draw from it and contribute to it.
  2. ii) Stories have the power to make us well (or unwell). It is therefore important to understand the stories we are working with, and to chose stories that make us well.
  • iii) We must learn to tell a story well – only then will it have its true power.


At the heart of the methodology is the process of deep listening and observation and a belief that there is no such thing as the voiceless. Only those who are not listened to. Storywork is both intellectual and experiential – we use our mind, all our senses, and our imagination. In working with stories we must have an understanding of intention – why do you want to work with story? What am I going to use the story for? Whose story and why? Why this story in particular? What is the narrative you want to highlight? We explore what makes a story work – the place, the people, the plot, the tension, the resolution. How do you make it come to life, and connect with the audience? And then we also ask, what are the ethics around the use of stories?  Do we have permission to use them? Do we need to protect the protagonist in the story? How do you tell it with respect, authenticity and integrity?


Some examples of projects I have worked on with regard to leadership and activism:

  • 2018/ 2019 I have been working on the Tekano /AFHESA fellowship for activists in health equity. We are using the framework of Ganz – stories of self, of us and of now – to explore the power and use of storytelling in the process; and ways to use story for activism. With some of the fellows we are exploring how to tell the stories of the beneficiaries – who tells; how to tell; what is the intention underneath the desire to tell and so on. And what are the ethics of telling.
  • In various leadership development programmes (e.g. Executive Education, Graduate School of Business, UCT and TEKANO) I have used story frameworks, like the Hero’s journey, as a tool for participants to reflect on their journey in the programme and identify next steps;
  • I have also worked in various contexts using metaphor and archetypes as a tool for personal and collective leadership work. I sometimes use art processes to map out a context/ situation, and then use the archetypes to discuss the situation and draw out insights. This enables participants to make the story/ stories visible.
  • I have worked with organisations, using story to reflect on the growth of the organisation, and to explore how both internal factors, and external factors shaped its trajectory;
  • I have worked with leaders to understand the story that has shaped them and then explored whether it is still relevant, or if it has changed, or needs to change – and then worked accordingly.


“My desire is to help people use stories to build the kind of societies we dream of – to re-story our lives; to reflect and pay attention; to language that which we struggle to name and to restore dignity and pride.”


Because my work is driven by story:

I am a published poet, and author of 4 children’s books and memoir. My first full-length book, Flame and Song: a memoir, was published by Modjaji Books (Cape Town, South Africa, 2016). The East African edition was published by Sooo Many Stories (Kampala, Uganda, 2017). I also contributed my story, and a chapter on how to tell your story in the Woman Zone book, Being a Woman in Cape Town (2015).


I have presented on the power of story at two TEDx events, TEDx Tablemountain and TEDx Prince Albert. I have also performed at the Open Book Festival (2018 and 2019), Nozincwadi Storytelling Festival (Durban, 2018), Story Moja Storytelling Festival (Nairobi, Kenya, 2017), McGregor Poetry Festival (2018and 2019) Franshoek Literary Festival (2017,2018, 2019).


I am a co-founder and co-host of The Story Club, Cape Town – a monthly storytelling platform that promotes the art of storytelling, a co-founder of the Balisa Nathi Storytelling Collective. I am a board member of Woman Zone Cape Town and The Life-Righting.

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