Sunday, September 25, 2011

Local Voices. Local Solutions.

Storytelling: One of the oldest art forms and a powerful tool for creating change. So powerful in fact that there are entire organizations dedicated to helping other non-profits and NGOs tell their story. As someone who has a love affair with the quantitative and a slight fear of the qualitative, I am in full support of the revival of this storytelling movement. That said, I also challenge the storytellers to take it one step further. What about supporting the people that are supported by the changemakers to tell their stories? One quote I came across recently said, “As change-makers we should not try to design a better world. We should make better feedback loops” (Owen Barder). Yes, please! 

For the past few months Spark Voice has (slowly) evolved from an idea to a full-fledged program that, with the help of incredible Voice Fellows, aims to “make better feedback loops”. How, you ask? Through this formula:

 Citizen Media + Participatory Video = Spark Voice 

Just as Spark MicroGrants puts development solutions into the hands of local communities, through Citizen Media (CM) and Participatory Video (PV) Spark Voice supports direct reporting or storytelling efforts from the same local communities, not professionals or ‘experts’, to a local and international audience. Through these methods, Voice aims:

  • To amplify the empowerment effect of the local solutions movement 
  • To facilitate feedback and dialog: community-to-community, community-   to-national community and community-to-global community 
  • To communicate the effectiveness of local solutions 
  • To increase transparency, accountability and follow-thru of locally-led development projects 
  • To build knowledge and portfolios of the local communities, fellows and volunteers 
  • To utilize practical, accessible yet forward thinking tools to capture the development stories

The primary content creators are the local microgrant communities and local journalism and media students (AKA Voice Fellows). Voice will support the communities to create their own videos to tell whatever story they choose, in any way they choose. The Voice Fellows compliment the videos with written articles and interviews about the communities and the broader concept of locally-led development solutions. On the receiving end of these stories are the communities themselves, other rural communities, the larger local audience, students, international development
workers, decision makers, donors, and of course Spark supporters.

So far we have introduced the process to the Voice Fellows as well to Tubeho (an HIV Association currently implementing their honey project), Gisagara (in the implementation stage of their cassava project) and one of the new communities, Nyarutosho (currently working on the proposal of their latrine building project). The reaction is encouraging and I think I speak for the entire Spark team when saying that we are excited for this new venture and to connect you even closer with the incredible locally-led projects that are happening. Not through our voice, but through local voices. The ones that matter the most.

 Stay tuned...