Social Impact through Digital Storytelling 

Storytelling is how a community builds its strength. We work with young people in marginalized communities in the US and internationally to help them find the stories that matter to them.

 

Through workshops and community engagement we build performances (on video) based on the stories the young people develop, and present them to the public on a beautifully designed interactive web portal.

Sometimes these will be new stories, on other occasions the stories will be drawn from the wisdom of the older generations, and re-presented through digital media in a way that is relevant and accessible to a young audience.


In this way we will open up more paths of communication both within the community (between generations or factions) and between the community and the outside world.

Our unique expertise with digital media and digital storytelling (based on our own Red Curtain Project) makes this work approach ideally suited to the times, when travel is difficult and sometimes impossible.

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Case Study: "100 Years of Lebanon" (Alwan Project)

1. Overview

 

To mark the centenary of the foundation of Greater Lebanon (September 1st 2020), Alwan Project has collected 100 stories from elders from across the country. This unique project, designed to capture and bring to life the history of the nation through personal narrative, has been made possible by young people (aged 15-17) working with the Alwan Project to record and document the oral histories of elder citizens from across the entire social and geographical spectrum. 

 

Thresh has worked with the Alwan Project to develop short digital performances of selected stories. In many cases stories come from individuals in marginalized communities whose experiences have seldom if ever been heard previously by the wider public.

 

Each story is the result of cross-cultural collaboration between performers, musicians, composers and visual artists from Lebanon, the USA and around the world. In addition to the performance videos, we also provide "behind the scenes" clips where performers, artists and musicians discuss the process of collaboration.

 

This is cultural diplomacy at work in the service of community-building and the empowerment of marginalized communities.

Further detail is available by scrolling down this page, or clicking the links below.

Click here for example of story video

Click here for examples of "behind the scenes" artist videos

Click here for discussion of Measurement and Evaluation

2. Full performance example: The story of Mohammad Najib El-Zein

 

A full example of a video story below: the story Mohammad Najib El-Zein. Told in Mohammad's own words, with translation via closed captions in English, the story is performed by US-based dancer Marc Crousillat and Beirut-based composer Wajdi Abou Diab. Choreography and direction is by Preeti Vasudevan (Artistic Director, Thresh).

 

3. "Behind-the-scenes": Artists in conversation

 

For each story, we capture short informal videos of the artist collaborators discussing their process. This is extremely valuable enabling the audience to "model" best practice in cross-cultural collaboration. Some examples, taken from a range of stories are below.

 

4. Measurement and Evaluation

 

All social impact projects undertaken by Thresh establish clear goals at the outset. These goals follow the well-established SMART rubric: goals need to be Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant and Time-bound.

 

Evaluation of the “Alwan Online” project is on-going. The project's impact is carefully evaluated against metrics ranging from the short-term and tactical (e.g. “is the technology infrastructure in place for our audience to enjoy a meaningful online experience?”) to longer-term goals and outcomes (e.g “are attitudes and behaviours changing in a way that is having a long-term positive impact on society?”)

 

The metrics and techniques used to evaluate the “Alwan Online” pilot project pertain to four inter-dependent dimensions as follows:

 

  1. Audience reach: Are we able to reach our target audience? Is the online content delivered in a format that can easily be accessed via existing technology?

  2. Audience enjoyment: Does our audience find the content (website) easy to navigate? Is the creative approach to storytelling appealing and engaging for our audience?

  3. Audience attitudes: Do individuals who interact with our content experience a change in their attitudes, and do they commit to new behaviours that will further the stated goals of the project?

  4. Audience action: Do individuals follow-through on their commitment to action in a way that is likely to achieve long-term change for the better in the Republic of Lebanon?

 

Tools for measuring success against targets will deploy mixed methods—from online engagement metrics (through blogs, social media and web presence) through to longer-term bias-free surveys to establish shifts in attitudes resulting from the project.

 

Measurements will be both quantitative and qualitative, as we evaluate the project's contribution to achieving both short-term and long-term impact goals. Interviews with broader stakeholders in the project (such as educators and teachers who use the stories in class) will also help to establish a realistic and practical assessment of impact on the ground.

5. Upcoming Projects

 

Alongside the Adyan project described above, we are currently developing digital storytelling projects in two underserved communities within the USA.

  • The Native American communities of the Montana First Nation (Lame Deer, MT)—bringing young people and tribal elders together to work on stories old and new (in partnership with Lame Deer High School)

  • The indigenous astronomers of Hawai'i—exploring how the stories of the indigenous people of the Hawai'ian islands relate to the stars, and can influence contemporary astronomy (in partnership with Professor Aparna Venkatesan, the Department of Physics and Astronomy, San Francisco University, SF)

6. Summary

 

Beyond our creativity and commitment to positive change through the performing arts, we pride ourselves on the rigour of the metrics we propose for social outreach projects.

  • Thresh is unusual among arts organizations in terms of the expertise we bring to digital marketing and optimization.

  • We are passionate artists, but also passionate about ensuring value for money in terms of bringing about a better future for our partners and end-users.  

 

Please contact us for more details on our approach to Measurement & Evaluation, or to discuss any aspect of our social impact work.

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