Nonprofits, civic organizations and even schools use digital stories to support their mission. Some of these groups use storytelling to generate brand awareness, while others use it to initiate dialogue on important issues. Many organizations use storytelling for fundraising. Community members across the U.S. are using storytelling to open dialogue on important political and social issues so they can affect change.
In each of these cases, community media can play an important role in helping organizations use storytelling to communicate and advance an organization’s mission. Community media centers provide community members access to the tools and training they need to produce digital stories.
There are three ways community media can help use storytelling to start a meaningful dialogue and create change.
1. Use storytelling as a community development strategy.
How can media centers help community members start the process of strategic and judicious storytelling?
Providing access to tools and training to produce digital stories useful for community development isn’t enough; community media centers should consider expanding their efforts:
• Train community members and organizations how to plan storytelling projects throughout the community designed to address critical local issues.
Storytelling encourages conversations among community members and creates a collective representation that improves the community’s well-being; media centers can be the catalyst for that improvement.
2. Use storytelling as an instrument for citizen empowerment.
Allen Knight, associate professor of business at Spring Arbor University, writes, “it is important that you tell your story from a relatable perspective and communicate in a way that elicits an emotional response from your audience. People respond to emotion, so it’s important to reach out from your heart to reach the hearts of others.”
Creative Narrations, an organization committed to teaching individuals and groups the how-tos of digital storytelling, believes “the process of storytelling can lead to self-discovery, strengthening relationships, and building power.” Personal stories facilitate deeper connections between people. Storytelling reaches the heart of decision-makers who often forget the plight of the people; this is where storytelling begins to create power and empowerment.
How can community media help marry storytelling and citizen empowerment?
• Help community members use available audio, visual and training tools to create digital stories that build connections
An online survey conducted by the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs states: “Empowering implies the recognition that anyone can make the difference in his/her life and other people’s lives.” This sense of empowerment is what helps people believe they can affect political and social change.
3. Use storytelling to build social capital.
Social capital refers to personal relationships people have developed over time that enable them to influence human capital, policy-making or community initiatives.
Froswa’ Booker-Drew, Ph.D. says, “If social capital is about networks, relationships, and associations, then it is critical to understand the role of bonding and bridging.” Booker-Drew argues that “[b]onding involves connecting to those who are familiar.” Storytelling creates this bond by building a bridge of understanding.
Here’s how community media can help build those bridges:
• Helping community members create and distribute digital stories consistently, which can strengthen relationships with key stakeholders
• Helping community members create and distribute digital stories that communicate solutions to political and social issues, which can influence policy-making and future initiatives
Community development, citizen empowerment and building social capital are just a few storytelling benefits. Partnered with community media, members of a community can initiate dialogue on important issues, establish relationships with key stakeholders and build a bridge of understanding. This understanding creates a sense of empowerment that helps people believe they can affect political and social change.
This article first appeared on Forbes.
Genia Stevens is a digital marketer and Forbes columnist. She is owner and managing partner of Belwah Media, an award-winning integrated digital marketing agency with offices in Madison, WI and Chicago, IL. Genia Stevens is passionate about community media, tech tools, podcasting, and everything digital. Connect with Genia on LinkedIn and Twitter.