Issue #: 
August 17, 2009

This issue includes:





This issue of The Drum Beat focuses on stories, asking: what do we mean by the use of oral history, or storytelling, in the context of social change? What is the rationale behind its use as a communication strategy, and how has it been used in diverse contexts around the world to address a myriad of development issues? How do new technologies influence the telling of traditional tales, and what does the relatively new approach called "digital storytelling" look like in practice? We also feature several tools from our Materials section designed to support the work of those integrating stories into their work and thinking, as well as a few evaluations assessing the storytelling strategy.








1. International Day for Sharing Life Stories - Global

In 2008 the Museum of the Person International Network and the Center for Digital Storytelling launched a global campaign to commemorate May 16 as an annual international celebration of life stories. Using a variety of in-person events and information and communication technologies (ICTs), this initiative celebrates and promotes life story projects that have made a difference. In 2009, the theme was Journey for Justice – Migration and Refugees. Organisers called on participating life story organisations, activists engaged in issues of human rights and immigrant rights, and the public to share 1,000 stories (as text, image, audio, and video) as part of the online campaign.
Contact: Joe Lambert OR OR Ana Nassar OR OR



2. IDP Voices - Colombia and Georgia

IDP Voices used personal, participatory dialogue, ICT, and printed material (a book) to provide a "window" on the actual experiences of a group that may not otherwise have had the capacity to share their stories. The core strategy involved enabling people in both Colombia and the Republic of Georgia to see the phenomenon of displacement within a personal context. The idea is that, by looking not only at the displacement, but at the entire cycle of someone's life, a deeper understanding may arise of the impact of displacement.
Contact: Ali Anwar OR Siobhan Warrington OR



3. A Snapshot of Life

by Clodagh Miskelly

This article discusses the nature, function, and collection of migrant life stories as lifelines and as public information, in contrast with their stories as official, legal evidence in their struggle for permission to stay in their new location. It is based on a project of Panos London and the African HIV Policy Network (AHPN) which involved a group of African migrants living with HIV who were at risk of being removed to their country of origin where treatment is not necessarily accessible, affordable, or available. "At the heart of this process is the story-circle where participants tell their stories, listen to other participants' reactions to them, and can develop and refine the narrative in a mutually supportive environment..." This process culminated in 2- to 5-minute digital videos featuring a personal scripted narrative soundtrack and still images.



4. Truth and Reconciliation Working Group (TRWG) - Sierra Leone

TRWG is a civil society network developing communication tools to allow all Sierra Leoneans to familiarise themselves with the key findings of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) report. In 2005, the TRWG conducted a storytelling project to engage people who are unable to read and write, lack regular radio access, and/or do not understand the language of Krio very well. Working in the areas of their origin, 150 storytellers received training to enable them to answer questions and facilitate community discussions in the local language following the storytelling. In order to ensure community members would continue discussing the TRC, TRWG erected 8 posters showing part of the animal cartoon story used a school version of the TRC at a public venue in each of the villages.
Contact John Caulker



5. Invisible Children - Uganda and the United States

Motivated to raise awareness of "the unseen war" in Northern Uganda, 3 young filmmakers from the United States (US) are using storytelling in an effort to promote international advocacy to sustain the peace process and garner support for programming for those living through the conflict. Invisible Children revolves around a documentary film, an action campaign, and the provision of educational scholarships, mentorship, and the rebuilding of secondary academic institutions. The action campaign includes events held in the US; for example, April 2007's Displace Me used storytelling to personalise the situation of those in northern Uganda. More than 68,000 people in 15 US cities gathered to experience for one night what it was like to be displaced; their voices were heard and actions were seen by national media, members of Congress, the White House, and - hopefully - the international community.



See also:







PLEASE SEE a recent issue of The Soul Beat, focused on the Power of Personal Narrative: click here.



AND this previous issue of The Drum Beat, focused on a Panos oral testimony project called "Mountain Voices": click here.









6. Katha - India

Katha has been working since 1988 to help children understand life through stories that link schools back to their communities. It enables 108,000 children living in urban poverty to tell/write/enact/enjoy stories, and through this process access relevant education for all-around development and social inclusion. Katha has found that stories initiate student activism, hone young readers' leadership in ways that spawn community resurgence, and help lift them out of poverty. Stories can inspire appreciation of other cultures and perspectives - which Katha calls vital for a heterogeneous India. "We see translation as a counter-divisive tool. Our quality schools and publishing programmes bring stories to culture-link classrooms, inform our teachers' work and training, and facilitate work with women and communities."



7. Multicultural Storytelling for Literacy Empowerment (MUSTLE) - Africa

MUSTLE Africa uses storytelling and interactive workshops to encourage basic literacy among youth, and to raise awareness of other cultures and social issues. In April 2006, MUSTLE collaborated with Streets Ahead, a project working with street children in Harare, Zimbabwe, to dramatise a Ghanaian Anansi story as part of the Harare International Festival of the Arts. In August 2008, MUSTLE launched "Street Home", a free quarterly newsletter intended for those working in the community development, education, and youth arts fields, and specifically those working with vulnerable children and young people living on the streets. The newsletter will also be a medium through which streetchildren can share their experiences and stories.
Contact: Ivor Kasongo OR James Robinson



8. CHINH - India

CHINH is implemented by an Indian filmmaker and her husband as part of their effort to support social initiatives foregrounding the causes of children and marginalised communities by harnessing traditional wisdom, art, and culture - and by rediscovering them in contemporary contexts. Because reaching out to children in rural areas is a priority, organisers have created storytelling schools called Katha Gurukuls. Located in nomadic hamlets, these schools are designed to inculcate pride in traditional folk stories. The teachers, who are generally wise hamlet elders, infuse modern educational materials with storytelling as an entertaining strategy for helping nomadic adults and children of nomads rediscover the strengths of local culture, climate, and knowledge.
Contact: OR






Please VOTE in our POLL:



How central to democracy are newspapers - some of which are being lost to budget cuts and other changes - as opposed to blogs, YouTube, emails, text messaging, twittering, and the like?


  • Pivotal - informed public debate is impossible without this kind of quality platform and trained journalistic practice.
  • Of some importance - we need both traditional newspapers and new media voices/venues to sustain conversations conducive to transparency.
  • Unimportant - the internet and other technologies have enabled participation on the part of both citizens and journalists by trade, making open journalistic debate both possible and popular. This is the essence of democracy.

VOTE and COMMENT click here.




RESULTS thus far (August 14):


46%: Pivotal - informed public debate is impossible without this kind of quality platform and trained journalistic practice.


41%: Of some importance - we need both traditional newspapers and new media voices/venues to sustain conversations conducive to transparency.


14%: Unimportant - the internet and other technologies have enabled participation on the part of both citizens and journalists by trade, making open journalistic debate both possible and popular. This is the essence of democracy.









9. Software 'Gives Children a Voice'

"Being able to tell stories about ourselves is a central part of the human experience and of social interaction....But telling stories about oneself can be a real struggle for people with complex communication needs (CCN)....This project is a feasibility study to see if we can help children with CCN create stories about what they did in a day by developing a computer tool which produces a draft story based on knowledge of the user's planned daily activities (e.g. from a diary) and automatically-acquired sensor data; and also an editing and narration tool ....Currently information about a child's school activities is provided to parents and carers via a home-school diary written by teachers or support workers....[W]e will develop and evaluate a tool which helps children create such stories themselves."



10. Outside the Indigenous Lens: Zapatistas and Autonomous Video-Making

by Alexandra Halkin

"The communities in Chiapas have adapted video technology as an important tool for internal communication, cultural preservation, human rights, and as a vehicle for communicating their own truths, stories, and realities to the outside world. The ability of indigenous communities and other marginalized groups to record, edit, and distribute their own story is vital..."



11. StoryBank - India

Launched in June 2006 and completed in February 2008, Storybank was an exploration of the power of stories to engage, stimulate, and challenge. The research endeavour, which centred around ethnography work carried out at VOICES and their community radio site in Budikote village, produced a repository of content that captures the essence of local community life, gives insights into their needs, and relates their prior experiences of technology. Cameraphones and digital library software were used to create a short audiovisual story - one that can give voice to people who cannot read and write or use the internet to record and access textual information. A large touch-screen display in the village's community resource centre features the villagers' short stories (up to 6 images and a 2-minute audio track, made on mobile phones donated by Nokia). The stories appear as a dynamic visual collage: groups may watch them together and download them to phones for later viewing.
Contact: Matt Jones OR David Frohlich



12. Can New Technology Promote Dialogue?

by Denise Gray-Felder

Gray-Felder envisions a "communication reality in which personal dialogue continues to be the primary way of reinforcing community values and social norms... [b]ut a reality in which such dialogue can occur face-to-face or device-to-device, or via Facebook, YouTube or Skype." However, she recognises the importance of non-technological, literal human communication; the sub-planting of storytelling by film and television "creates an unacceptable cultural environment in which a society's stories are managed by its film and television producers instead of by its elders. This leads to homogenisation of cultures, ethics and desires - negatively impacting the survival of indigenous cultures, languages, customs and artefacts." This opinion piece discusses the risks and opportunities of communication technologies.



13. E-Knowledge for Women in Southern Africa (EKOWISA)

Based in Zimbabwe, EKOWISA works to generate, analyse, translate, repackage, and disseminate locally relevant information and knowledge for better livelihoods. EKOWISA has produced 10 digital stories with community representatives from PADARE Men's Forum on Gender, Disabled Women's Association, and EKOWISA Community ICT Project participants. Their objective in so doing is to highlight issues which impact on people's behaviour, attitudes, and their thinking concerning gender-based violence, HIV/AIDS, disability, and the use of ICTs in human development.
Contact: EKOWISA website.


See also:









14. Digital Storytelling: Capturing Lives, Creating Community

by Joe Lambert

This 2002 volume from the Center for Digital Storytelling (CDS) includes contextual essays about the history and vision of their work. Six chapters explore making a digital story and using it for personal or professional needs, and 6 chapters discuss how digital storytelling has been taught and applied. It is both a textbook and a teacher's guide.



15. Knowledge Sharing Toolkit

This living knowledge repository is a space for exchanging tools and methods related to knowledge sharing (KS) as framed in the context of international development - with a focus on agriculture, fisheries, food and nutrition, forestry, and sustainable development. It has 3 main pieces: a library of both web-based and physical tools that can be used with a variety of methods; a library of methods (e.g., appreciative inquiry, storytelling, knowledge fairs); and a set of perspectives and guidance that can help users choose tools and methods for their needs and contexts.



16. Giving Voice: A Practical Guide to the Implementation of Oral Testimony Projects

by Olivia Bennett

Published in 1999, this manual from Panos is meant for those implementing community-based oral testimony projects in the development context. Drawing on several years' fieldwork with grassroots and community-based organisations, it covers all aspects of such projects - from the initial planning to reviewing and evaluating the process and the products. Designed to help those with little or no previous experience of such work, it also contains ideas for running a training workshop. Throughout the manual there are checklists, summaries of key points, and ideas for discussion which have been designed to be used or adapted as handouts for interviewers, and/or during a training workshop.


See also:










17. Speaking Freely, Being Strong: HIV Social Movements, Communication and Inclusive Social Change - A Case Study in Namibia and South Africa

by Lucy Stackpool-Moore

"This document outlines some of the main findings of a pilot case study in South Africa, conducted in 2006....[I]n collaboration with the Centre for Popular Memory at the University of Cape Town (UCT), Panos facilitated an oral testimony workshop with representatives from three different social movements – the Treatment Action Campaign (TAC), Khululeka Men's Support Group and the International Community of Women Living With HIV/AIDS (ICW)... - [who] then carried out open-ended, in-depth interviews with their peers....A number of key issues emerged....First, coming to terms with HIV and talking about it is extremely challenging at an individual or personal level. Talking with others is also one of the mechanisms by which individuals reflect on their situation and become impassioned and motivated to start a social movement. At the interpersonal level, connecting with other people plays a critical role in providing support for people affected by HIV and AIDS."



18. Fostering Children's Connections to Natural Places through Cultural and Natural History Storytelling

by Clifford R. Blizard

"This investigation explored the effects of storytelling on the development of children's sense of place development in a formerly inhabited forest. Six groups of elementary children visited a ten-acre wooded site twice. During their first visit, students explored and wrote about their experiences. On their second trip, two groups first heard stories about site history, two others heard about the site's geology and ecology, and two others (controls) were not told stories....Historical stories led children to express place meanings that were anthropocentric, mediated and bounded by historical conditions. Natural history stories enhanced direct engagement, promoting place meanings that were biocentric, creative, and less restricted by site boundaries." This study, published in 2000, draws conclusions related to the use of storytelling and sense of place.



See also:







This issue of The Drum Beat was written by Kier Olsen DeVries.





The Editor of The Drum Beat is Kier Olsen DeVries.


Please send material for The Drum Beat to The CI's Editorial Director - Deborah Heimann


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