Week 6: Response & Reflection

The article I chose to talk about today is The Power of Community Storytelling. This is a wonderful article that talks about exactly what the title says.. the power of community storytelling. The basic premise behind this article is that sometimes, it is the cumulative stories of many people in a community that tell the true tale. The author highlights the death and violence in Kenya after the 2007 presidential election. The president tried to keep each incident that happened separate so that the world wouldn’t piece together the horrific events that were occurring. However, when individuals began telling their stories, the world started taking notice of what was going on.

Bloggers and software developers, who knew what was going on, got together and created the site Ushahidi. It became a platform for the community to share their stories in whatever format they could. They could upload photos, videos, even written accounts. Through this platform, the world got to witness the bigger picture (Ushahidi means witness in Swahili).

What I really like about this article is that the author talks about how powerful stories and how if you can get people to see things and change their mind about something, you have the power to change the world. It also shows that while storytelling might be personal for the storyteller, these stories are a way to connect disparate people together. Stories also help people gain experiences that are completely foreign to them, allowing them to experience them almost first hand.

Interestingly, as I have mentioned many times in previous posts (maybe to get a little sympathy?) I am working on my capstone for my master’s degree in Public Administration. My project deals with community engagement. My research is looking at how nonprofits engage their stakeholders/community in order to create a stronger organization, one that that meets the needs of its community and is sustainable. One of the suggestions I cam across was for the organization to incorporate storytelling. My final deliverable for my client is going to be a community engagement strategy with the top 3-5 items they can look at implementing right away. I definitely see digital storytelling being one of them.

For a little background, they provide arts education to children and teens, both through after school/summer programs, and through artist in residence programs in the schools. One of the ideas I am thinking of is for them to contact past students and have them tell their story about how the arts program affected them. And the more I look at other digital story formats and creations, the more ideas I get on how to make it a cohesive story as opposed to a bunch of videos posted on YouTube. And this would be an excellent example of the power of community storytelling.

I would love to hear your thoughts and ideas. If you were someone who had money or time to donate, what would you like to see that would want you to engage with this type of organization?


3 thoughts on “Week 6: Response & Reflection

  1. Hi Karen,

    Thanks for sharing this article about the amazing power of shared storytelling as experienced in Kenya after the presidential elections. Clearly, the power of a community coming together to tell a common story is much more powerful than individual stories. And it’s good to know that at least some of the injustice was stopped by a group of bloggers and software developers who recognized the bigger problem and created the Ushahidi site.

    And I think your efforts to include storytelling into your plans for increasing community engagement are a good idea that will hopefully come to fruition. I think one of the challenges of using storytelling to tell a bigger story is to get people to actually tell stories vs making comments. To me, a story is something that encompasses a larger theme or idea, and it takes a bit of work to make it into a story. Whereas comments are the short little pieces that we’re all familiar with. For example, in the article he mentions the idea of creating stories based on people’s favorite New York City Pub Crawls. If someone was to just add a comment about how they liked a particular bar, it probably wouldn’t qualify as a story (depending on how elaborate it is). But Bradley talks about “stringing them together into their personal proposed paths” which makes it a personalized story that is unique to each of the participants.

    My suggestion would be to look for ways to make the stories the most complete stories possible, whether it’s combining smaller stories as described, or by filling out prompted questions, or by some other means. The more complete the story, the more compelling.

    I hope this helps, and good luck with your project.


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