The Basics

Digital Storytelling (DST) is a workshop-based methodology that focuses on the everyday person’s ability to share aspects of their life story. Over the course of a 5-day intensive workshop, DST participants are given the opportunity and skill necessary to produce a 2-5 minute video story. The focus of the workshop is on the skill-building process, not the end product. The beauty in the process is that it is grounded in storytellers' ultimate control over the medium – words, images and audio – so stories are told by those who lived the experience.  The methodology was developed in the mid 1990s in San Francisco, U.S.A., by the Center for Digital Storytelling. Since that time, it has been adopted by many organizations and individuals looking to give voice to the people and stories not often heard. 

Girls' Sport, Leadership and Storytelling

Women Win believes that DST has a unique ability to cultivate leadership potential. Through the process, young women are encouraged to strengthen muscles in all six competencies of leadership. Through an intense 5-day DST workshop, Women Win equips young women with technical skills, knowledge and opportunities to share their personal stories of transformation through sport. These may include the challenges they faced, how they overcame them, and the impact sport has had in their lives.

Once a young woman learns the skills needed to share her story through DST, it becomes her task and responsibility to share those skills with members of her organisation, capturing more stories and multiplying the effect of the tool. Born out of this approach, our ultimate goal with DST is to strengthen our partners’ capacities to build girls' leadership and communicate the impact of the work they do locally and globally.

What Makes DST Unique?

Unlike either traditional storytelling or modern media production, Women Win chose this methodology based on a variety of unique aspects, including:

Narrative Control: The DST methodology differs from other media (documentaries, film, radio) in that the storyteller is in complete power of the process - the participant chooses exactly what to say and how to say it. As a process, the act of telling one’s story can have a profoundly empowering impact on the storyteller. Participants actively construct and reconstruct themselves and their stories through the process of narration.

Feminist Methodology: The goal of empowerment is to enable women to participate in society, influence their own situations and have equal chances as men have. The Association of Progressive Communication’s Chat Garcia Ramilo describes the digital storytelling itself as a feminist method, as women get the chance to speak their minds. The separation between a female private sphere and a male public sphere can be destabilized as marginalized women become visible through their digital stories. Simply put, the process disrupts hierarchies by putting storytelling power in the hands of women and girls.

ICT Skill Building: Through the process of participating in a DST workshop and producing a story, young women are introduced to a variety of storytelling and tech skills, such as narrative arc, creating a 'hook', recording and editing audio, selecting, creating and editing imagery and finally, video creation. Beyond the personal empowerment of the experience, the intention of this training is that young leaders will share these skills with others and integrate digital storytelling into their activist work.

Enabling Access: Compared to traditional media, the digital medium is a relatively affordable and approachable form of technology for non-experts. No previous technical experience is necessary to participate in a workshop and create a digital story. Non-professional equipment and free software applications are used to craft and edit stories. Anybody can be a participant young and old; villagers and city dwellers; literate and illiterate. 

Alternative Research Tool: Digital stories are rich, layered accounts of human experiences. Unlike traditional research methods such as surveys, they can capture the complexity of growth, challenge, tradition, etc. – which can be linked to the a variety of monitoring and evaluation frameworks and objectives.

Elements of a Workshop

1. Ice breaker, introductions and energisers: relaxing the participants and helping them to feel more comfortable with and trusting of the facilitators and other participants is essential. Given the high-demand for focus and long hours in front of a computer, it is important to infuse the workshop with energisers (see Resources for a list of ideas).

2. Overview: We share the overarching objectives of digital storytelling: what it is and why we do it. We also discuss the elements of digital stories and view examples of digital stories.

3. Script Writing: We educate participants on the art of storytelling, including how elements such as visuals and audio add depth to the story and should be considered alongside the words we write. We also discuss types of stories, the story arc, entry point and hook to provide a pedagogical approach to crafting compelling stories.

4. Story Circle: Participants read their stories aloud for the first time during the sacred space of a story circle. During this process, participants are encouraged to provide constructive feedback to their peers as a means of supporting the creative process. This element is very important and it is vital to allow enough time so that participants have the liberty and space to engage in the full DST process.

5. Storyboarding: Once the script is final, participants map out which visuals will be used along a precise story timeline. Storyboards are critical in maintaining an efficient use of time and keeping to the production schedule, as the eventually inform the video compilation process on the final day.

6. Voiceover Recording: Participants read and record their own scripts. This is usually done using some type of voice recorder and a basic, free audio software application called Audacity.

7. Visuals: This aspect of the training focuses on the use of visuals to enhance stories, including personal photographs, illustrations, creative projects and internet-accessed imagery. Using a basic image editing software application called GIMP, we work with still images to resize, crop, blur and employ other tools for a creative look and feel to the images that will enhance the story; in some instances participants may include video clips. We encourage the use of self-illustrated visuals (drawings, paintings, sketches) as well.

8. Movie making: Participants put together the audio and visuals together to craft the final story. This is most commonly done using Windows MovieMaker. Basic film editing skills are gained as well as the use of screen transitions, animations, title frames and end credits. The final film is rendered and exported as a movie file that can be uploaded or copied.

9. Share plans: The intention for these films is that they will be shared by individuals and used by partner organisations to advance their work. As such, it’s critical to explore basic communications strategies, such as identifying target audiences, developing appropriate messaging, connecting with media outlets, planning screenings, etc. Each participant develops her own share plan, complete with a timeline, for sharing the stories. These plans are worked on throughout the workshop.

10. Copyright, consent and ownership: In support of ethical practices, we include discussion related to copyright, the Creative Commons license, consent of who and how the stories can be used as well as the young women’s basic rights as storytellers.

11. Reflection: Watching one’s own words and visuals often serves as a mirror into the past. It is important to allow time for discussion and personal reflection related to the DST process after the completion of workshop.

12. Screening: Hosting a DST film screening where an audience views the digital stories is an excellent opportunity to celebrate the accomplishment of creating a film. It also enables participants to experience first-hand how it feels to have their stories shared in a public space.