We weren't sure we could pull it off, and we don't want to count any story chickens before they hatch, but we are now offically half-way through our debut virtual storytelling workshop with HP's Office of Global Social Innovation. With our closest participants from Toronto, our furthest in South Africa, and the rest scattered throughout Europe, we've been delving into the ins and outs of using HP Virtual Rooms as a teaching platform. Scheduling across time zones is just one of the challenges that has presented itself! We're modeling this workshop on our three-day training, breaking it into a series of five-three hour chunks, and working with individuals on a one-on-one basis for story coaching and technical assistance along the way.
In our first session, a few weeks ago, we experimented with a virtual story circle---in many ways this was the part we were most anxious about. While experimenting with new software is fairly commonplace these days, revealing the experiences that make us who we are on a conference call...a bit less so. Fortunately, we have an intrepid group here; their stories are first person accounts of the passion behind the team's motivation to address social causes, from loss of a loved one to AIDS to growing up behind the Iron Curtain. The final stories will debut in an online screening later this month, but in the meantime you can view Aziz Mohamed's story from the November workshop. Aziz is a finalist in an HP corporate marketing competition with his story, Positive Change Empowered by HP.
This evening I had to cut out early from the kick-off orientation to Mapping Our Voices for Equality's digital storytelling workshop in Seattle's International District (I.D.)--had a sick baby at home. But, as these things tend to go in the life cycle of the working mother, he conked out ten minutes after I returned. So here I am with a spare minute and freshly inspired by what I got to witness on the second floor conference room of International Community Health Services. There were eight folks crammed around the table, all of whom live and work in the I.D., with deep connections to the neighborhood's public spaces. Most watching digital stories for the first time. Ideas were brewing, you could sense it. At the break, I overheard the woman who was instrumental in revitalizing Chinatown's International Children's Park huddled with two youth; all three are volunteers at the park-- they were trying to figure out who should tell which piece of the story of how local residents organized to redevelop the underused space. I had a flash forward to six months from now, to zooming in on a map of King County to the tiny greenspace in the midst of concrete, to seeing some kind of icon pop up indicating that there were multiple stories about this place, to hearing and watching the vision of the leaders that made this space a home for their children. I'm looking forward to it.
Shortly before the break, Jonathan from the Danny Wu Community Garden asked if the stories for this workshop needed to be about some place in the International District, or if he could do a piece about another community garden in his life. While we hate to restrict the types of stories people throw their hearts and hands and hours into creating, the answer to that one was straightforward--For now, let's focus on this neighborhood, but we hope you take these skills with you--another day, another story, another garden.
What do organizers and media activists in the Gulf Coast and King County, Washington have in common? Both are exploring how to embed people's stories into online maps. Oh, and both are being supported by Creative Narrations! Jen has been busy developing curriculum for Bridge the Gulf, Leah Mahan's new storytelling initiative chronicling the aftermath of Katrina. And up North, Tasha is coordinating Mapping Our Voices for Equality, or Project M.O.V.E., a public health initiative integrating maps and locally produced media to prevent tobacco and obesity. M.O.V.E. will launch in September of 2011, but you can catch a sneak preview of some of the stories now.
Is corporate citizenship possible? I have to admit that I've had my doubts -- I figured that while responsible business was possible on a smaller scale, by the time you got into the Fortune 500 (let alone number 10), your stockholders demands took precedence over any visions of social entrepreneurship. Fortunately, the past few days I spent at the Hewlett Packard headquarters managed to kick my doubt in the head. Jen and I were asked to lead a series of digital storytelling workshops for HP's Office of Global Social Innovation. The folks we met working there are doing everything from trying to galvanize a workforce of 300,000 to each spend four hours a month volunteering, foster applied technology to tackle HIV in Kenya, and rethink the way we do science and math education. The team is seeking a way to better communicate the impact and potential of their work, and decided to make digital storytelling central to their toolbelt. The stories they told were inspiring. The potential to scale the work, even more so. We'll be posting all the stories soon, in the meantime get a sneak preview at Jim Vanides take on "Engineering Education for the 21st Century."