Story Collections Strive for Social Change, Part 1

Virtually every day, I see examples of storytelling in service of social change. So many examples, in fact, that it takes two postings to cover just the recent ones. Here are some that have caught me eye in recent months:

  • Brooke Dean and Levi Felix, who document their project at THIS IS THE WORLD WE LIVE IN are “traveling around the world capturing stories of leadership and heroism, learning about communities in need and conflict, and connecting them with the support of those looking to give it. The kinds of questions they are asking during these travels:
    • What is effective activism?
    • What is collaboration, sustainability and understanding?
    • How will our diverse generation of social change build a true global culture committed to one another?

    The two seek “talented photographers, writers, filmmakers, travelers, backpackers, organizers, vagabonds and volunteers to join the collective and start blogging with [them]. If you think you’d be a good fit or want to get the details about being a blogger, or know someone who might be interested, shoot us an email at with the subject title, ‘Join The Collective.'”

  • I’m From Driftwood is an ongoing collection of true stories by gay people from all over, the intent of which is to help gay teens feel not so alone. Users can submit stories here. This site seems especially timely after the recent suicide of Rutgers student Tyler Clementi.
  • Storytelling has emerged as an important tool for fundraising, and a timely example is The YMCA of Greater New York, which, as documented in an article by Caroline Preston, “hired a freelance journalist to spend time with Haitian teenagers at its Port-au-Prince affiliate. The reporter turned those interviews into short biographies that the charity presented to potential donors on its Web site and on Facebook.” The campaign raised about $30,000 over two and a half months. You can see the video stories here.
  • The Bay Area Video Coalition and several other organizations used digital storytelling to reduce incidences of domestic violence in the Fruitvale district of Oakland, CA. The digital storytelling initiative, called Abriendo las Cajas (Opening Boxes) is “facilitated process of sharing personal narratives for individual empowerment and social change using simple media technologies.” Here’s how an article by Jen Gilomen describes the process and its capabilities:

    It starts with the sharing of personal narrative, facilitated dialogues about violence, and participants finding commonalities of experience. … The process of expressing this narrative — of talking it through in a safe space with your peers, then owning the narrative from your own perspective — is empowering. … (One participant, Veronica, said that through her story she wanted to “tell the women they should never feel scared.”)

  • Finally, not a story collection for social change, but a call for for storytelling for social change, in this case sustainability. Noting that “storytelling is, and always has been, the antidote to information overload,” Marc Stoiber calls for storytelling about climate change, sustainability, and green innovation. I especially like this part of his argument:

    Storytelling ensures that your innovation has the momentum it needs to overcome inertia and resistance to change — both inside your organization, and out in the real world. A staggeringly large number of things have to go just right for a new idea, service or business model to ever see the light of day — and many of them involve changing or expanding consumer thinking. Without the glue, context, and inspiration of storytelling, the odds are stacked against you. Without a story, a great innovation can be reduced to a clever invention among a million clever inventions. With a story, it can help educate consumers, drive them to positive behavior change, and perhaps even inspire greater, more fervent climate action. Not bad for a new product or service.

More social-change story sites coming up later in the month.