These pilot descriptions are in draft. Our goal for StoryLab is to experiment with new techniques, approaches, delivery systems, and other elements that can deepen and sharpen story power, and to do that in partnership. Every pilot is flexible, open to collaboration and adaptation to fit partners' aims and communities. Specific elements of each pilot—for instance, story-based theater, poster campaigns, radio programs, smartphone apps, and GIS technologies—can be adapted and transferred to others. If you have a different participant focus, issue, technique, or any other adaptation in mind, let’s talk. Contact Joe Lambert at firstname.lastname@example.org or Arlene Goldbard at email@example.com.
The Desire Paths pilot asks how things would be different if people’s histories, feelings, and connections to the land figured into planning and public decisions. We get hung up on jobs versus environment, when we need both. This pilot builds an interactive map-based repository of wisdom stories for activists, planners, and public bodies, linked to resources for citizen action.
All of us are witnesses to our own places: whether on foot or by bicycle, automobile, or wheelchair, whether over land or water, every path we travel is embedded with countless invisible stories of those who came before us and the meanings the same stretch of earth held for them. In the official framework of land-use planning and environmental regulation, such stories seldom count. But our stories can be more and more of a resource for planning, adaptation, protection, and restoration. What the land means to us matters, just as much as its meaning for other species, for economic life, and transportation.
The Desire Paths pilot project documents, maps, and enriches our understanding of place and the importance of land and our journeys over it, incorporating four elements:
- Individual stories. Working with partner organizations, we will offer digital storytelling workshops around the U.S., shaped by this prompt:
Tell us your story of this journey. When you move through this place, what thoughts and feelings arise? What significance does this journey have for you? What is your hope for the future of this place?
The project nucleus will be a multi-generational layering of stories anchored to specific sites and journeys, telling about places rich with historical association and natural diversity, places that are threatened by climate change or ill-advised development, places that are attracting a storehouse of stories to nourish resilience in a time of rapid change.
- Interactive mapping. Using Google Earth or another interactive mapping platform, we’ll plot stories on the Desire Paths website, making them one-click accessible to visitors exploring terrain. Zooming in, each story will be anchored not just to a point in geographic space, but to the entire path the story describes. The layering of stories will resemble the layering of multicolored threads, a few strands in one location, a wide ribbon in another, evolving a visual and narrative tapestry of meaning.
- Snapshot Stories. We’ll invite users of the website to upload their own stories, with a user-friendly one-image/one-story utility, specifying map coordinates to make them accessible to future users.
- Applying placed-based wisdom. The Desire Paths treasury of stories will aid land-use planning, community development, preserving local history, and protecting the environment. Partner organizations will be encouraged to link their educational and activist campaigns to the project, using it to build citizen testimonials to the value and significance of contested lands. Impact will also be documented by users who upload stories describing how the Desire Paths project has been useful in raising awareness and stimulating response.
We are seeking partner organizations to collaborate in developing Desire Paths. Partners will be organizations that focus conservation, preservation, community development, environmental protection, or related issues; will be actively involved in shaping the pilot; will link Desire Paths to at least one action initiative; and will help to raise funds through donations and grants to support our work together. If you’re interested in exploring this possibility, please drop us a note and we’ll get in touch.
Please make a tax-deductible donation to support the planning, partnership, and development work needed to get StoryLab up and running. Any contribution will help (and if you contribute at least $25, we have some great premiums for you!). If you pledge at least $250, you will also be able to direct your pledge to your favorite pilot project—perhaps Desire Paths—and that will help determine which ones should be developed first.