Storytelling Project Posts

Announcing the GlobalGiving Storytelling Fund winners!


Many thanks to all who submitted applications to the GlobalGiving Storytelling Fund! We are pleased to recognize the following organizations as recipients of the Storytelling Fund:

  • Center for Peacebuilding
  • Encompass- the Daniel Braden Reconciliation Trust
  • Guitars in the Classroom
  • La Reserva Forest Foundation
  • Partnership for Every Child
  • Tanzania Development Trust
  • Vacha Charitable Trust
  • Vijana Amani Pamoja

We are very excited to be working with each of these organizations to support their storytelling and feedback efforts! These organizations will be reaching beyond the constituents they touch directly to field feedback and collect stories from their wider communities, in order to build as holistic an understanding as possible of the needs of their communities and learn how they can better affect change. To explore the story collection and analysis tool, visit the growing database here.

Take a look below to see a short description of each organization, followed by the story prompt they have chosen to drive their story collection.

  1. Center for Peacebuilding (Bosnia): Center for Peacebuilding develops peacebuilding programs to foster peace and reconciliation among different ethnic and religious groups in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Our activities are designed to bring about comprehensive social change focusing on youth.
  • Their story prompt: “Talk about a time when a person or organization tried to help someone of change something in your community. What happened?”
  1. Encompass – the Daniel Braden Reconciliation Trust (UK): Encompass works to bring together young people from different cultures and backgrounds, supporting them to become more understanding and tolerant of each other while giving them the skills and confidence to promote intercultural understanding in their communities.
  • Their story prompt: “Please tell a story about a time when a conflict arose because you had to work with someone from a different background (religious, cultural, ethnic etc.) to yourself.”
  1. Guitars in the Classroom (USA): Since 1998, Guitars in the Classroom (GITC) has been inspiring, training and equipping classroom teachers to integrate music making across the academic curriculum through “song-based instruction” so students of all ages have educational, musical access & opportunity at school every day. Our work prepares educators to lead music, employing it as a dynamic tool for reaching all learners, teaching all subjects, and building character, creativity and community. Programs & materials are free.
  • Their story prompt: “We are excited to learn about how your experience with Guitars in the Classroom has affected you personally and, if you are an educator, professionally. We also hope to learn about other experiences you have had as a volunteer or participant with another charity. Thanks for participating!”
  1. La Reserva Forrest Foundation (Costa Rica): La Reserva Forest Foundation is a Costa Rican non-profit working to restore and preserve native tropical forests, dedicated to creating “tree bridges” linking isolated forest islands using volunteers and the local school communities, and fighting global warming through various carbon neutral projects.
  • Their story prompt: “Please tell a story about a time when you had to choose between protecting the environment and maintaining a livelihood. Include if/how individuals or organizations were involved in the conflict.”
  1. Partnership for Every Child (Ukraine): Our vision is the world where every child grows up in a lovely and secure family. Mission. We professionally assist families, communities and governments in their work to ensure the rights of every child to live and develop in safe and secure family environments. Our main focus until 2015 is to prevent separation of children from families and placement in institutional care; support and strengthening parental capacities of vulnerable families; support to children leaving care.
  • Their story prompt: Please tell a story about a time when a person or an organization tried to help someone or change something in your community.
  1. Tanzania Development Trust (Tanzania): The Trust Deed of 1975 says “The objects of the Trust shall be to relieve poverty and sickness among the people of Tanzania by means of the development of education, health and other social services, the improvement of water supplies and other communal facilities and the promotion of self- help activities.” Interpreting the Trust Deed for the needs of the 21st Century we add: “In making grants, the Trust tries to promote equal opportunities and projects which improve the environment”.
  • Their story prompt: Please tell a story about a time when a person or an organization tried to help someone or change something in your community.
  1. Vacha Charitable Trust (India): Our mission is to focus on issues of women and girls through educational programs, resource creation, research, training, campaigns, networking and advocacy. Our vision is of a world without exploitation, oppression, discrimination and injustice against women or any other section of society.
  • Their story prompt: Please tell a story about a time when a person or an organization tried to help someone or change something in your community.
  1. Vijana Amani Pamoja (Kenya): VAP’s mission is to integrate social and economic values through football/soccer by creating a proactive health environment.
  • Their story prompt: Please tell a story about a time when a person or an organization tried to help someone or change something in your community.

Congratulations to the winners!
For reflections on their progress so far, click here.

GlobalGiving encourages all of our partner organizations to explore the use of the Storytelling Tool as a way to collect feedback from your community. Please visit this page to learn more about the tool and methodology, and contact Marc Maxson or Sarah Hennessy with any questions!

How to Collect Stories from Your Community

Last week, GlobalGivng staff Britt Lake, Marc Maxson, and Sarah Hennessy held a webinar on the recently announced Storytelling Fund. We reviewed some definitions and background on feedback, learned more about using the Storytelling Tool, and finally learning about applying to the Storytelling Fund.

Watch the recording here.

What is Feedback? Why is it important?

Collecting feedback is an important way for you to gather information from your community to improve the services you offer to your beneficiaries or constituents. Closing feedback loops helps you move beyond simply collecting data in community surveys- by acting on that information, and communicating those actions back to your constituents, you can engage your community in a more impactful cycle of learning and improving your work. You’ve heard us talking about listening, acting, and learning– closing a feedback loop helps your organization do all three.

Collecting and acting on feedback from your constituents is analogous to conducting consumer satisfaction surveys in a for-profit setting. These surveys help businesses measure their performance and adjust their activities accordingly. The same principle applies to collecting feedback from the community in which you work. This type of “bottom-up” information helps you adjust your programming to ensure that you are meeting the needs of your community, and amplifying your impact as much as possible.

There are a variety of effective ways to collect and act on feedback- and, with the new GG Effectiveness Dashboard, we are giving you credit for doing it! One method of collecting feedback from your community is through the GG Storytelling Tool. This tool guides you through the collection of stories from your community about the issues that they find most pressing, and then helps you analyze that qualitative data in order to help you discover how best adjust your programming. In short, this tool helps you make sense of a large amount of qualitative information (stories) by turning it into quantitative information (like more traditional M&E approaches).

What is the GG Storytelling Tool?

So how does the tool work? Here’s what the Storytelling Cycle looks like:

Storytelling lifecycle

Find information on the tool, as well as a step-by-step guide, here.

After building your storytelling form online, you can train a group of volunteers to take those forms into your community (using a computer or via paper) and collect stories. We call these volunteers “scribes”. We have found that using volunteers from your organization, rather than staff, can help in obtaining the least biased and most helpful stories. Remember, you should not just collect stories from your direct beneficiaries, but also look to your community at large for feedback. While it may seem like your direct beneficiaries would give you the best information about your programming, the most useful feedback will actually be both from those closest to your work, as well as those tangentially affected: parents, neighbors, and friends of your direct beneficiaries, who are all, in one way or another, effected by your organization.

Announcing the Storytelling Fund!

gg-storytelling-logo-croppedHere at GlobalGiving, we believe that good feedback loops are crucial to becoming an effective development organization.  In order to solve the world’s biggest problems, we must be Listening to constituents, peers, and experts; Acting on what we hear; and Learning from those experiences.   We want to help you to become more effective through this process as well!

We just launched our Effectiveness Dashboard to help you track and improve your own progress along this cycle.  One way your organization can earn points is by collecting feedback from those who benefit from your services.  You can’t listen to your community, act on what you hear, and learn from those experiences without first collecting feedback from the community where you do your work.

GlobalGiving’s Storytelling methodology asks community members:Tell us about a time when a person or an organization tried to change something in your community.”  Storytellers then answer a few basic questions about their story, and the tools we’ve developed can help you analyze those stories to inform your programs and help you better understand your community.

Storytelling Fund

To make this process a little easier, GlobalGiving is offering technical support and up to $2,000 to help your organization collect the feedback it needs through our Storytelling methodologyAs an added bonus, you’ll also earn points on your Effectiveness Dashboard!   The deadline to apply is May 17.

Storytelling Webinar

To help you develop a plan for collecting feedback within your community and to provide you with more details about the new Community Feedback Fund, GlobalGiving will be hosting a webinar on Wednesday, April 30 at 9 am EDT (Find this time in your city) and 3 pm EDT (Find this time in your city). Sign up for the webinar here.

Want to apply?  Here are the Terms and Conditions:

  • Only GlobalGiving Partners, Leaders, and Superstars with active projects on are eligible to apply.
  • Organizations may apply for a maximum of $2,000 in funds to be used to cover costs specific to story collecting, and must include a draft budget for the support sought.
  • Organizations receiving the funds must use the GlobalGiving storytelling tool to collect these community stories.  All stories become part of the GlobalGiving’s open source database.
  • Storytelling Funds can be used to cover incremental costs for collecting stories, including:
    • Printing or copying the story form
    • Volunteer/scribe/storyteller incentives (but not regular staff salary)
    • Translation and transcription of the forms or stories
    • Workshop space rental
  • Funds will be sent after the first 100 stories are collected and entered into the Storytelling database.  It is the responsibility of the organization to notify GlobalGiving when the stories are collected and to submit receipts of the costs.
  • The first 100 stories must be collected before September 1, 2014 or GlobalGiving reserves the right to revoke the funds.
  • In addition to funding, recipients selected for this opportunity also receive:
    • A pre-collection call with a GlobalGiving storytelling expert to help design your story collection;
    • Participation in a training webinar on using the tool and analyzing the data for an unlimited number of staff;
    • Ongoing support from GlobalGiving storytelling experts while the initial storytelling is conducted;
    • One round of post-collection analysis.
  • The deadline to apply is May 17, 2014.

How to conduct a storytelling evaluation


If you work at an organization and have done an evaluation before, you probably followed these steps:

  1. Define the problem
  2. Design the survey
  3. Collect data
  4. Analyze data
  5. Form a conclusion
  6. Change project direction, apply for new funding, etc.

Our process has pretty much the same steps, only in the opposite order:

  1. Analyze existing data
  2. Form a hypothesis
  3. Design a different kind of survey
  4. Collect more data
  5. Compare your new data against the existing data
  6. Form a conclusion
  7. Define the problem
  8. Change project direction, apply for funding, etc.
  9. Go to step 3; repeat.

This “different kind of survey” uses qualitative stories in a quantitative way by combining text analyiss with questions about the story in the follow-up survey. These questions help define the ambiguity hiding in our preconceptions of the problem, mapping out power relationships in communities, conflict aggressors and victims, problems, solutions, innovation, and understanding what could have happened if things had worked perfectly. We provide a distributed data collection method that ensures many voices are heard. Every response begins with a story – a brief personal narrative – and the phrases in the story are an essential part of forming a hypothesis (step 2).

  • Aggregate power: With tens of thousands of stories in the reference collection, most organizations can find hundreds of stories related to their mission among the >58,000 we already collected in Kenya and Uganda from 2010-2012.
  • Filtering: Stories “at scale” makes it possible to validate the numbers and filter out misleading information.
  • Exploration: Broadness of the narrative prompting question and the scope of indivual perspectives we’ve already heard from allows the analysis tools to reveal unexpected connections between issues, peoples, locations, and organizations.
  • Benchmarking: Another major advantage is that our survey data can be combined with results from surveys conducted by others, as well as with your previous survey data. The analysis tools are built for pooling data and comparing subsets to each other, so that data trends become more reliable over time.
  • Durable, perenial data: Traditional evaluations usually create a new survey each time or lack the technology to merge new results with old ones done by others. Our story form builder is a compromise between design flexibility and instant benchmaring. And because our design makes it easy for you to change your questionnaire while adding to your growing data collection, you can form conclusions based on all of the data (past and present!).

Analyzing existing data

Note: there is a webinar recording for this tutorial. You can access it via

storytelling tools webinarWebinar: Storytelling tools explained (with Britt Lake and Marc Maxson) July 2013

Our process as a series of 9 steps. This tutorial covers the first three steps:
(1)    Analyze existing data — use the story search and story phrase bubbles tools
(2)    Form a hypothesis — based on what you see
(3)    Design a different kind of survey — story form builder
(4)    Collect more data — attract a group of young people, train them, given to papers, and send them out
(5)    Compare your new data against the existing data — in the same analysis tools as step (1)
(6)    Form a conclusion
(7)    Define the problem — informed by a new perspective
(8)    Change project direction, apply for funding, etc.
(9)    Go to step 3; repeat.

Explore the story search tool at


Go to and either type in a word or phrase (in quotes, like “school fee”) to see stories that contain those words. Or you can click on one of the suggested search links below.

Build a good topical story collection with at least 200 stories.


I entered some words and phrases that relate to women entrepreneurs. But note that the word “entrepreneurs” was only found in ~50 stories (out of over 58,000). Instead, words like “micro loan” and “start business” are better choices. You can add several phrases and it will combine results for all stories that contain any one of those phrases.

Example: “micro loan” “start business” “started business” entrepreneur= 159 stories with any one of these phrases
Example: ugali bread “grow food” maize rice = 1485 stories with any one of these grain crop food words
Example: women and group and business = 290 stories with all of these words

Note that there is no way to combine words with AND and OR at this time, but you can usually find hundreds of stories with the existing search.

Understanding the visual summary icons


When hundreds of stories match, the search results include a visual summary of who told these stories and what they talked about. The icons of girls, boys, women and men will appear different sizes and colors depending on how prevalent that demographic group is in the group of matching stories, compared to the number of people of the same age/sex in all 58,000 stories.

A larger icon means that the demographic group is overrepresented.
A green icon means stories from this group are more positive in tone than the overall sample.
Red means more negative.
Yellow means about the same as the whole set of stories.

Note that you can mouse over these icons and see absolute numbers for the percent of stories that came from each demographic group, or relate to one of the ten story themes.

When is a trend in the icons important?


That is a difficult question to answer because it depends on the context. What are YOU trying to learn? If you have no questions about what your community thinks and feels about a subject, and no doubts about the work you are doing, this tool is not for you. But for me, speaking as a scientist, I am constantly asking myself if I am doing the right thing for the community. This reality check helps.

In this example, the overall sample of stories that mentioned “election” (n=724) was negative. But those about recent events in the last six months (from when the story was collected) from people who felt they played a role in the story were a mix of positive and negative. By selecting a more recent timeframe I was able to see that the trend is towards more examples of respect growing (green, positive icon), yet actual freedom remains negative.

If you were wondering how I was able to reduce the 724 stories to just 24 interesting ones, I was using power search, explained next.

Use Power Search to filter stories


Check boxes next to the things you want to see in your stories


By default, the checkbox for the words you searched for will be selected. Uncheck it if you want to lookat all the stories.
Check other boxes to narrow stories by outcome, demographic group, point of view, or related topics, and git [Generate a custom report now]

Note that within a set of answers to the same question, such as type of story, you can check more than one box and it will return MORE stories than checking just one box, because it will match ANY of the answers you select.

Power search lets you filter by any criteria in the questionnaire and export as CSV.


In the example shown, 1485 stories related to types of crops people grow in Kenya have been reduced to 55 stories using filters. The POV (point of view) filter excludes stories that sound like they are from the organization’s perspective (and not a personal one). The story needs to be focused on a problem (not a solution) and about economic opportunity (not social relations or physical well being).

A quick scan of the visual summary reveals that older men tell more possible “success” stories and women share more negative stories. The themes appear to focus on food and shelter, and to a lesser extent, on self esteem. Oddly, several categories are far less represented or absent: freedom, creativity, knowledge, respect, and family.

Export as CSV


If you want to analyze these stories in any other way, feel free to grab them.

What the export contains: Everything!


age_of_story_when_told, city, country, date_transcribed, felt, group_in_story, id, latitude, longitude, need_prob_soln, net_heirarchy_topic_score, num_stories_told, org, org_type, original_organization_name, other_information, outcome, pov, pov_avg, project_focused, quality_score, revised_organization_name, sex, soc_phys_econ, story, story_char_length, story_connection, storyteller_age, storyteller_contact_sms, title, topic_creativity, topic_family, topic_food, topic_freedom, topic_fun, topic_knowledge, topic_physical_needs, topic_respect, topic_security, topic_self_esteem, translated, url, who_benefited,

You can compare a story to other stories told by the same person


This is a “within-subjects” comparison – a quick way to find out if you are deceiving yourself about how much diversity is in the viewpoints you are listening to. If a person only talks about one issue, and nothing else, they are probably not giving the full story, and possibly not the most honest one.

Summary of hypothesis generating tools


You explore a large collection of anecdotes in order to get a feel for many perspectives on around an issue. Here are some strategies, with case studies to follow:
(1) Pick a general search phrase (e.g. “street child”) and then change the filter options around demographics and point of view. Save screen shots for each perspective and look at them side by side.

(2) Build a set of stories exactly related to your work, then broaden your search and look at how the trends change as you adjust your search words.


As you can see, choosing words that are more likely to be used by regular people will lead to stories that have less positive bias. Stories from farmers and that use the NGO phrase “food security” are more positive than those about “grow food” and bread, ugali, etc. — yet stories about these foods are true “food security” stories.

(3) Compare stories related to your work with any other topics that matter to these same people


In this example – over 5000 stories related to farming and agriculture and “food security” there is a reference group of 1106 stories NOT about these subjects but shared by people who gave these stories. The ability to do a “within-subjects” comparison on the fly is unique to this approach. We will be building more tools that make this easier to visualize. For now, you can begin by browsing these stories.

Bubbles: A more abstract comparison tool


The “bubbles” tool attempts to merge and parse all of the narratives in a single view. Words that are common and interesting appear in bubbles. The location of the bubble above or below a line is determined by the meta-data for each story. So far, the types of comparisons this tool allows are:
(1) is the story related to a known NGO or is it some unmet need, (or work by people not NGOs?)
(2) comparing success vs failure stories
(3) how does the number of stories a person shares relate to what is said?

Our process as a series of 9 steps. This tutorial covers the third step:
(1)    Analyze existing data — use the story search and story phrase bubbles tools
(2)    Form a hypothesis — based on what you see
(3)    Design a different kind of survey — story form builder
(4)    Collect more data — attract a group of young people, train them, given to papers, and send them out
(5)    Compare your new data against the existing data — in the same analysis tools as step (1)
(6)    Form a conclusion
(7)    Define the problem — informed by a new perspective
(8)    Change project direction, apply for funding, etc.
(9)    Go to step 3; repeat.

Go to, log into your project leader account, then click on the ‘stories’ button on your dashboard


If you are not currently a project leader you can use this secret link: to collect stories, but you should join officially. The GlobalGiving Organization application page is at

Read the stories page overview


Understand the “scribes” model for collecting stories before you build your form


(1) Engage a group of local people. We find that girls who have just graduated from high school do the best work, and provide you with a broad sample of both men and women, both young and old.
(2) Invite them to a 1 hour training. You want to end up with about a dozen, but you may have to invite 20 or 30 as some will not be interested.
(3) Have them fill out the one-page story form you are building during the training.
(4) Give them blank printed story forms and a goal: interview 10 people in the next 2 weeks. Ask each one for 2 stories. And return all the papers.
(5) Provide them with an incentive to participate – this can be a small payment (in East Africa we found that 10 cents per story was sufficient) or a privilege, or additional skills training.
(6) Collect the stories and scan them using an Android camera phone or iPhone.
(7) Analyze, and share your findings with the scribes. They will want to know what the community is talking about. Then repeat this every 6-12 months.

Customize your own storytelling form. The first questions are selected for you. They are required.


You will see that two of the required questions are scribe’s phone number / email address and the storyteller’s phone number / email address. These will be kept confidential and are used for tracking how many people are actually filling out the forms, and which stories were told which whom. We prefer that you tell your scribes to choose one kind of data (phone OP email) and ask for that one kind of information for everybody.
If somebody (i.e. a scribe in training) tells his or her own story and there is no scribe involved to write it or collect it, then put the same phone number in both boxes.

The next questions, in yellow, are optional. You may add them to your form by clicking on the checkboxes to the right.


Which questions you choose is up to you. It will NOT allow you to add more than front and back of one page worth of questions.

Each of the optional questions are best used with one or more other questions in the set, depending on the kind of stories that interest your organization.


The choices may seem overwhelming at first, so below are a few examples of an organization with a specific goal and which questions they chose.

Example: Story-based program monitoring for a girls’ after school program


Vijana Amani Pamoja runs the mrembo project in Kamukunji, a Nairobi slum. Mrembo (“beautiful girl” in swahili) aims to give adolescent girls ages 8-15 life skills for deal with boys and other threats in their daily lives. This organization collects stories from girls before and after each 10-week session to keep track of what issues are coming up in their girls’ lives that need to be addressed in future sessions.

I’ve highlighted the optional questions in red. This organization chose to focus on the who, what, and why of the story, along with two questions about power and hierachy.

Example: VSO’s Valuing Volunteering community research project questionnaire


Two VSO volunteers (Jody in Philipinnes and Simon in Kenya) are gathering community feedback about what would make volunteerism more effective in developing countries. They’ve included a lot more of the conflict and power mapping questions, and some less structured open-text questions, like “what else would have made a difference in this story?”

Even though few of these questions overlap with VAP, both will be able to benchmark their answers against the other on these questions and story elements:
1. All words in the actual story — you build a set of relevant stories by searching the text first.
2. topics
3. age
4. sex
5. role
6. authority figures
7. why it happened
8. who benefitted (outcome)
9. types of solutions

That’s nine different criteria even though these two groups have never coordinated on which questions they’ll ask. And there are many more people collecting, so that everyone will eventually have comparable data for every question they could ask.

Choose your questions and submit the form.


You can mouse over the tooltip (?) symbol for more information about the context for each question.

Your form is ready – check your email for instructions


The email will contain unique URLs to your specific story form. There are two links. One is a web form where you can enter data. Our free transcription service will use this when you scan your stories with a camera phone and email them to us ( or The other link is a printable PDF that you should print and photocopy many times so that scribes can collect stories anywhere without needing any technology.

Scanning stories with a smart phone


We have an instructional video to demonstrate this. Basically, there are many android and iPhone apps that do repetitive document scanning faster than a conventional scanner. We recommend you download one of these:

Scan to PDF (free on android)
Genius Scan (free on iPhone, $2 on android)

These apps will create a PDF and attach it to a gmail message for you. If you address it to us at GlobalGiving, we will do the rest and email you back when your group of stories is available online for analysis (at and

Ready to begin?

— marc maxson (mmaxson at globalgiving dot org)

Community Feedback: How To Get it, How To Use it

Perla Ni, CEO of GreatNonprofits and Marc Maxson, who manages GlobalGiving’s storytelling project in East Africa, teamed up to host a training on Community Feedback this week. Listen to the recording and check out a summary below!

“Customer Reviews” are a valuable source of credibility for companies. Amazon, Yelp, and ZAGAT use this feature to attract new customers. The company gains trusting customers without lifting a finger and past customers have a place to share stories about their experiences.

65% of online shoppers read reviews before making a decision. GreatNonprofits harnesses this new trend by allowing volunteers, donors, beneficiaries, and other stakeholders to review nonprofit organizations. These reviews, just like reviews for online stores, gives donors insight into what other stakeholders’ experiences have been like, thus giving the organization credibility.