Digital Storytelling and Advocacy Webinar

On October 16th, 2019, I attended a virtual webinar held by StoryCenter. Amy Hill presented the webinar to 56 attendants and gave us an introductory course jam packed with information in a short hour. I am currently taking a digital storytelling course at college and this webinar only helped to expand my knowledge of what it means to be a digital storyteller. Amy discussed things such as the different types of advocacy, two case studies, the types of story framing, and StoryCenter’s methodology.

An Overview

The first thing we were shown was this video pertaining to the affordability of childcare. This video demonstrates two different types of story framing: episodic and thematic. Episodic, as Amy explained, is defined as framing that emphasizes the agency or story of the individual. As you can see from the video, the story starts off with a mother’s personal struggles with affording her living expenses and raising her child. Thematic is defined as framing that emphasizes a broader narrative. By the end of the video, we can see that Clarissa moved from just her personal story to her community. She involved herself in a campaign with other mothers to “raise the income eligibility for childcare.”

The second thing that Amy discussed was the two types of overarching advocacy. The first type is called community-based advocacy, which focuses on educating people about issues that affect them. Community-based advocacy also strives to encourage people to get involved in their community. The final thing that community-based advocacy does is that it focuses on the requirement to change social norms. Many nonprofits use community-based advocacy, according to Amy, because it is the most effective way of making changes on an individual and community-wide level.

The second ford of advocacy that Amy discussed in the webinar is policy advocacy. This type of advocacy revolves more around the legalities of creating or reforming public policies, hence the name of this type of advocacy. To be specific, it focuses on influencing policies, bringing attention for specific policies, and to bring awareness to the need for accountability. Policy advocacy focuses on making changes on an institutional level rather than an individual level such as health and educational policies. Policy advocacy also helps to teach others within a community about current policies and expresses why there may need to be a change in those policies.

Amy explained a few reasons why storytelling and even personal stories are so important to enact change within communities. The first reason is that stories can increase self-esteem and self-advocacy. Storytelling can also be a great way to get information across to a wide variety of people, as it combines facts and emotions. Amy stressed that “change begins with individuals assessing themselves”, which storytelling can cause people to do. Lastly, we were told that storytelling can inspire people to start making changes, influence public policy and decision-making, and give a sense of purpose.

Case Studies

A pie chart shown during the webinar.

During the webinar, we were shown two different case studies. The first was about FGM/C, or female genital mutilation/cutting, and we were shown the actual digital story about FGM/C from the point of view of someone who endured it. Warning, this video is quite disturbing. The pie chart shown above shows a survey that was conducted in communities where FGM/C is a common practice. As you can see, an overwhelming amount of people are not ok with cutting women. However, FGM/C still remains as an active practice because people feared excommunication and stigma. Amy called this “pluralistic ignorance” and digital stories such as this strive to shift the social norm by advocating to end this gender-based violence. If you would like to learn more about the organization advocating for this, you can checkout the website for Sahiyo.

The second case study we were shown was related to Hepatitis B. This video described the struggles a young man had with accepting the fact he has Hepatitis B. The goal for this particular story was to engage with people that are also affected by Hepatitis B and to decrease the stigma. The story was also intended to push for more funding for healthcare and research pertaining to Hepatitis B. These advocates tell their stories not only digitally but also through conferences, community events, Hepatitis B United Summit and Hill Day during the summer, and more. If you would like to learn more, you can check out the website for the Hepatitis B Foundation.

Conclusion

This webinar expanded my understanding of what it means to tell digital stories. Digital stories can take on so many different shapes depending on the impact the storyteller wants their story to have. It causes people to become advocates for what they’re passionate about and they gain the ability to create compelling stories. Digital stories can affect a small community or a nation. Digital storytelling truly has no limits and can do so much for the teller and the audience.

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