Telling a good story is hard. Telling a good story about international development while maintaining nuance, integrity, and without falling back on confusing jargon is even harder.
In a way, we’ve passively learned to do the opposite. Sensationalist headlines, poverty porn, and stories that carry on the tradition of the White Man’s Burden make many in the West accept one-sided, simplistic narratives without a second thought.
But we know we can do better.
Just because something is hard doesn’t mean you shouldn’t go for it. And it doesn’t mean you have to do it without help. Here are some free storytelling tools and resources (besides this blog, of course) that can aid you on the journey*:
- Hatch for Good – This site is home to interactive toolkits that help you craft a storytelling strategy, build a culture of storytelling, develop content and a platform, and even measure the impact of your stories. You can also find examples and advice on great storytelling to inspire you.
- Stories Worth Telling – A guide on best storytelling practices for nonprofits. Really, it’s just great for anyone trying to inspire people towards positive change.
- Center for Digital Storytelling Blog – The Center for Digital Storytelling blog has a wealth of stories on tough topics that show the kind of nuance and depth we should aim for in stories about global poverty. The entries are short and easy to read. The blog also includes a lot of free tips and advice for better storytelling.
- Pen and paper. Sometimes there’s nothing more intimidating than staring at a blank screen, trying to figure out how to fill it. So step away from the computer. Write down the first ideas that come to your head, no matter how terrible you think they are. Draw diagrams and doodles. Write down the key points you want to hit without worrying about how it will sound. Then, when you’re ready, move to the computer (and remember that you can and will make LOTS of edits).
- Your own brain, family, colleagues, and friends. Seriously. You’re not alone. You can ask the yourself if the story is dehumanizing or manipulative in any way. You can ask people around you to read it to see if it’s engaging and clear. Always take a pulse check before hitting publish, of course. But if you’ve been following this blog, then you know the things you should watch out for.
Remember, stories connect us as human beings. They’re also one of the best ways to explain complex challenges in an engaging way.
Even if you’re working on a small team, and you don’t think of yourself as a communications person or writer, you’re still part of the storytelling equation.
Creating a culture of storytelling takes practice and discipline. Telling captivating, nuanced stories about tough topics past requires hard work.
But it’s worth it, don’t you think?
*Full disclosure: I’m not being paid or swayed by these groups to promote their products. They’re just tools that I have found useful and want to share them. And don’t forget to check back on Until the Lions for more tools and resources to aid your quest for better storytelling for international development.