Technology Salon

San Francisco

Sponsored by

a discussion at the intersection of technology and development

Effective Storytelling Media for High Impact Campaigns


On May 27, 2021 more than 50 people gathered virtually for a San Francisco Bay Area Technology Salon that investigated different forms of storytelling technology being used effectively in diverse international development environments.

Which Storytelling Media are Most Effective for High Impact Campaigns? featured discussion leads based in the US, Israel, and Afghanistan, with expertise across storytelling fields, including participatory photography, radio, mobile and social media, and explanatory animation, including:

Organizations crafting communication and engagement strategies recognize that the newest technologies are often not the most effective in influencing behavior change. The true skill is to identify the right technology medium for a particular communication objective. For example, FM radio still has the largest worldwide reach, followed by television.

Industry leaders such as Rare and Equal Access International are using approaches that leverage all media including photography, radio dramas, and SMS services, with support from private and nonprofit partners, to make stories, share information, and discuss sensitive issues. Meanwhile, TMC Animation Studio is tackling similar issues through the medium of explanatory animation. In doing so, all three organizations are demonstrating how quickly audiences absorb key messages when shared through creative forms of digital storytelling.

Choose Your Technology (and Content) Wisely

  • Critically, think about contextual factors relevant to your intended audience’s experience, such as the geography of where they live, access to technology, literacy, language, what technology has penetrated their community already and is effective and has proven to be effective.
  • It is important to root your content in the culture and lived experiences of your target audiences. Keep in mind your desired outcomes as your program evolves. Continually check that your approach is in service of those desired outcomes.
  • Apply a multi-pronged, intersectional approach to increase effectiveness of your program. For instance, ensure your radio or TV program is followed up by community conversation groups, in parallel with a mobile hotline for voice and SMS feedback, before the next episode airs.

Listen, Listen, Listen to the Targeted Community

  • Do your homework with the community you will be engaging first. Make sure the content you are producing or program you are implementing is informed by the full population you will be targeting. Bring the young and old in for interviews. Ensure men and women from different parts of society all have a seat at the table.
  • Take into account the top-down “colonial nature” of many storytelling interventions. There is a difference between “helping” versus “empowering” or “enabling” a community. Create programs that are driven by the ideas, perspectives, and initiative of local community members.
  • Developing and implementing programs that are truly owned by the local community has the potential to deliver downstream impacts, such as participants running with new ideas and iterations born from the original programs, and using their new skills in new innovative ways.

Iterate Effectively by Creating Feedback Loops

  • Build feedback loops into your communication programs to the maximum extent possible. The more feedback, and the quicker you can receive it and apply it to your program, the more likely your program will be effective. Consider using surveys, focus groups, digital comment boxes, SMS numbers, voicemail inboxes, to name but a few approaches.
  • On the financial side, build into your budgets the capacity and technology needed to effectively integrate feedback loops into your programs, so you don’t have an excuse for not doing it.
  • Before you and your organization launch into a big, potentially disruptive communication project in a community, make sure you have the will to see it through from beginning to end, and that you can execute it with sensitivity and integrity.

Resources to Connect with Upcoming Efforts

By Joshua Reiman. This Technology Salon was produced by Inveneo. Thanks to Vodafone Americas Foundation for sponsoring Technology Salons in the SF Bay Area.

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