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Case Studies

University of Maryland (Baltimore County) Demonstrates the Power of Story in Service Learning

Emily Paulos

Colleges and Universities across the United States and around the world are increasingly embracing models for service learning, as a way of connecting students with local communities and needs. As a way of kicking off a service-learning program led by the UMBC New Media Studio (NMS), StoryCenter led a series of digital storytelling trainings for staff and faculty. What then emerged was a collaboration involving the NMS and Retirement Living Television (RLTV), a closed circuit television programming effort of the Erickson Retirement Communities (now Erickson Living). 

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The Ohio State University Develops a Community of Practice to Engage Students, Faculty, and Staff in Digital Storytelling

Emily Paulos

In 2005, two members of the Ohio State University (OSU) library system, Karen Diaz and Anne Fields, attended our StoryCenter digital storytelling workshop in Asheville, NC and together created a story about renovations to the OSU library. Upon their return to Ohio, they engaged the newly formed Digital Union in a project to integrate digital storytelling into the library system’s information technology and curriculum support services. A year later, OSU invited us to lead an on-campus workshop, for a group of faculty and staff. This session resulted in the formation of an OSU Digital Storytelling Leadership Team, comprised of members drawn from several parts of the university.

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Afghan Women’s Writing Project – An Innovative, Online Approach to Documenting and Advocating for Women's Rights

Ary Smith

After decades of war and occupation, Afghanistan continues to face tremendous challenges. While the current government claims to support gender equality and women’s rights, daily conditions for women and girls have improved little. Rates of gender-based violence are high; the Taliban persists in its attempts to assert control; and the legacy of the ongoing conflict has left nearly 80% of women unable to read and write. Since 2009, the Afghan Women’s Writing Project (AWWP) has helped hundreds of Afghan women craft essays and poems and share them with the world. These writings enable thousands of readers each month hear directly from Afghan women on issues of personal, cultural, and political significance. 

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Grassroot Soccer South Africa: Speak UP! Young South African Women Share Stories of Identity, Gender, and Violence

Ary Smith

Traditional patriarchal and cultural norms in South Africa, coupled with the legacy of the systemic, state-sanctioned violence of Apartheid over generations, has fueled a society with one of the world’s highest rates of sexual and gender-based violence against adolescent girls and young women. Grassroot Soccer leverages the power of soccer to educate, inspire, and mobilize South African youth to overcome their greatest health challenges, live healthier, more productive lives, and be agents for change in their communities. The organization works with young adult mentors to incorporate sport in dynamic, interactive lessons that provide a safe space for engaging adolescents, deconstructing harmful gender norms, preventing violence, and encouraging participants to seek sexual and reproductive health services.

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Rocky Mountain Public Health Training Center: Storytelling Webinars and Working with Native American Communities

Ary Smith

At StoryCenter, we've heard time and time again from public health professionals of the need to put the "public" back into public health, and while many talk about community engagement, they're still seeking successful and viable ways to put it into practice. This is what the Rocky Mountain Public Health Training Center (RMPH-TC) said to us when they initiated a partnership to bring StoryCenter's storytelling webinars and workshops to public health professionals across the Rocky Mountain region. 

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The Nature Conservancy: Communicating in New Ways About Marine Planning

Emily Paulos

Since its founding in 1951, the vision of the Nature Conservancy has been a world where the diversity of life thrives, and people act to conserve nature for its own sake as well as its ability to fulfill their needs and enrich their lives. Through the dedicated efforts of its diverse staff, the Nature Conservancy uses a non-confrontational, collaborative approach to advance conservation efforts around the world. 

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Project Re•Vision: Bringing a Disability Lens to Health Care

Emily Paulos

Project Re•Vision aims to help disabled people share their experiences with healthcare providers and policymakers, in hopes of eliminating stereotypes, increasing understanding, and improving care and policy. “There’s a lot of evidence that people with disabilities are invalidated, and their healthcare is poorer than those without disabilities," states Project Re•Vision Director Dr. Carla Rice. “If we can bring a disability studies lens to care and begin to get providers– from doctors onward– to see disability as another identity category, as opposed to a biomedical or individual problem, that’s going to go a long way to improve healthcare interactions.”

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Sunny Hill Services: Critical Conversations - Talking with LGBTQ Youth About Mental Health

Emily Paulos

While significant gains have been made in raising awareness about the challenges faced by LGBTQ-identified young people in navigating familial and community stigma and accessing queer-friendly health and mental health services, these youth continue to experience discrimination and misunderstanding in many mental health settings. The “Our Space” program of Sunny Hills Services (Hayward, CA) provides a safe environment for LGBTQ youth to talk about their difficulties and successes. Our Space also advocates with providers for improved service delivery.

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Nehemiah Corporation: Leadership Through Storytelling and Technology

Emily Paulos

Effectiveness and ethical practices often seem to be at odds, in professional environments, whether civic or commercial. The tendency to put organizational needs over the needs of people and their communities can lead to disastrous results. With appropriate training, support, and ongoing dialogue, leaders can find ways to hold the stories of their publics, alongside the story of the stresses and strains of maintaining an institution. Over the years, many organizations have created fellowship programs for emergent leadership, to instill a sense of ethics and integrity of purpose, in young professionals.

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Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County: Using Storytelling to Inform Exhibition Planning

Emily Paulos

A museum that serves a million visitors a year has many stories to tell about the intersection between museum staff and the public. In 2014, the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County opened its massive "Nature Gardens/Nature Lab" indoor/outdoor permanent exhibit. As part of the launch preparations, the museum invited StoryCenter to assist in a series of workshops designed to explore how storytelling could inform the planning and implementation process and build a stronger sense of trust and awareness, among the many layers of staff engaged in the project.    

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National Park Service: Digital Storytelling Ambassadors Program

Emily Paulos

As part of the lead up to the 2013 50th Anniversary of the March on Washington D.C. for Jobs and Justice, the event that gave us Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s "I Have a Dream" speech, the National Park Service engaged in activities commemorating the civil rights movement. The Park Service's Office of Interpretation and Education, in collaboration with the National Mall and Memorial Parks and important African American D.C.-based National Historic Sites including the Mary McLeod Bethune Council House and Carter G. Woodson Home, sponsored programs to call attention to local civil rights history. The Park Service was particularly interested in connecting young college students with historic places, and with community members who attended the March and engaged in other forms of civil rights activism.

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Mayo Clinic: Digital Storytelling as a Health Intervention for Somali and Latino Adults with Type II Diabetes

Emily Paulos

Type II Diabetes is higher among immigrants and refugees in the United States than in the general population. Many immigrants and refugees do not receive the healthcare information that they need, about the disease. Healthy behavior changes, such as increased physical activity, dietary modifications, and medication adherence, are often challenging for immigrants and refugees to implement, due to language barriers, cultural norms that discourage seeking healthcare, and socio-economic barriers to accessing services. Low health literacy disproportionately affects racial and ethnic minority groups.

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"If Not Us": Intergenerational Storytelling and Theater Focused on Civil Rights History and Present-Day Social Action

Emily Paulos

The rich legacy of the civil rights movement was commemorated across the country in 2013, which marked the 30th Anniversary of the historic March on Washington. To honor the work of activists in the 1950s and 60s, several groups in the City of Denver, CO developed a project to encourage awareness and present-day engagement with civil rights issues, as part of StoryCenter's All Together Now initiative. 

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Houston Community College: Embedding Digital Storytelling Across the Higher Education Curriculum

Emily Paulos

StoryCenter's pioneering digital storytelling methods support multi-modal learning and have been demonstrated to increase college students' engagement and retention. Houston Community Colleges (HCCS) is the fourth largest community college system in the United States, serving more than 55,000 students. Beginning in 2014, we led Educational Technology Services and Curriculum Innovation Services staff from the six colleges, as well as faculty from various disciplines, through a series of three-day digital storytelling workshops. Following completion of their own stories, a sub-group of participants attended customized training for facilitation and implementation in the classroom. The program is part of a three-year training and implementation effort designed to incorporate digital storytelling methods across the six HCC campuses.

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Hear Our Stories: Shifting Dominant Narratives About Young Moms and Sexual and Reproductive Health

Emily Paulos

Despite increased attention within the public health field to the need to refrain from stigmatizing teen mothers, prevailing views continue to suggest that these young women cause a whole host of social problems. In an effort to reframe public conversations about young moms and sexuality, health, and reproductive rights, the University of Massachusetts, Amherst School of Public Health initiated the “Hear Our Stories” project, in collaboration with StoryCenter and several other MA and national organizations.

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Pathways to Food Dignity: Narratives Documenting Local Efforts for More Sustainable Food Systems

Emily Paulos

Recognizing that the globalized food system dominating food production and consumption in the United States is both unhealthy and unsustainable, committed activists around the country have for years now been exploring ways to create alternatives. The United States Department of Agriculture-funded Food Dignity project is a research, education, and extension effort bringing together five local organizations and three universities, to learn how to build healthy, sustainable food systems.

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Fielding School of Public Health, UCLA

Emily Paulos

Graduate-level education in public health often involves professional field placements that test the knowledge of students within contexts and conditions of community and international settings. Reflection on field placements can become a critical part of the training process, for pre-professions. The stories of student successes and challenges in these placements assists in telling the story of an educational institution's own goals and accomplishments for preparing the public health leaders of tomorrow. The Fielding School of Public Health at the University of California, Los Angeles, understands the importance of supporting its graduate students in sharing stories of how service placements have changed them, as people and as professionals.  

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Community Bridges - Concord, New Hampshire

Emily Paulos

Community Bridges in Central New Hampshire promotes opportunities for people with developmental disabilities to exert positive control over their lives. The organization focuses on supporting all members of the local community– those with developmental disabilities, and those without– in benefitting from caring, connected relationships. In the fall of 2014, Community Bridges reached out to StoryCenter, with a desire to explore how story sharing and storymaking can break down the stigma of disability and promote mutually helpful relationships. 

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Charleston County Public Library: Capturing Community Stories

Emily Paulos

Charleston, SC has a rich history and oral storytelling heritage, and the Charleston County Public Library (CCPL) is one of the hosting partners of the annual Charleston Tells Storytelling Festival each spring. In 2014, CCPL decided to add a digital component to the storytelling festival. After contacting StoryCenter, CCPL applied for, and was awarded, a Library Services and Technology Act grant from the Institute of Library and Museum Services administered by the South Carolina State Library.

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