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The power of storytellers & listeners - a platform creating clarity and enabling action

This concept is based on the idea of having a platform where storytellers (news network reporters, photojournalists...) post stories creating clarity for listeners (Aid organizations, news providers, citizens...) who then take necessary actions.

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This concept is based on the idea of having a platform where storytellers (news network reporters, photojournalists, local newspaper reporters..) who are on the ground, who make it to these hard to access crisis areas, who discover the real story use this platform to tell the story through their pictures, videos. These stories are monitored, tracked, filtered, tagged to create clarity and presented to the listeners as a visualization. The listeners (Aid organizations, news providers, citizens...) consume this information to collaboratively find aid, broadcast to a wider audience or tweet/spread the word to enable actions.

Consider this scenario -
Lisa, a National Geography photographer is exploring to film various water situations. While in a region in Northern Kenya, she comes across group of people who kill other people for water. This is in fact true and something we'd never have found out. She interviews the people - the survivors & the killers, photographs them. Lisa is a registered user on our platform. We know her name, where she works, what she does. She uploads the story to the platform - it tracks her location or lets her add where the story happened. The platform is maintained by say USAID, Humanity United. The stories are tracked as they come in. Lisa's story is tagged and accepted. What then gets updated is a visualization (a maps mash up) which is what the listeners can see - us citizens, the news providers, aid organizations etc. What also happens is the nearest USAID and other nearest aid organizations or appropriate organizations are identified on this visualization, tagged and informed about this story in their region so that they are aware and can take the needed actions. These organizations who are also part of the platform can then post to the story when action/relief efforts they have taken.

Who are the Storytellers? -News network reporters, photojournalists, local newspaper reporters...
Why them? - These storytellers are always on the go exploring. The storytellers make it to regions that are difficult to reach. Some stories will remain unheard of if not for these storytellers.

Who are the Listeners? - Anyone. The listeners are curious. Shocked, sad by these stories. They don't trust any story. They want to help.

The platform? - Allows the storytellers to share and provide clarity to the listeners enabling them to do their part.

Providing incentives? -
How to provide incentives to the victims to share their story with the storytellers - providing them hope of help/aid/care package by letting their story reach the appropriate organizations. Assuring they'll be heard.

How to provide incentives to the storytellers to post the story - recognizing their story and the organization they belong to on the platform, recognizing their story has been notified to the appropriate organizations, updating their story when the appropriate organizations have taken an action/provided relief/assistance. Also, some kind of point/score system for storyteller's activity & contribution on the platform. Featured story/photograph on the platform thereby recognizing the storyteller and his/her organization as well highlighting the organization enabling action.

Who can use this platform and how?
victims ----share--> Storytellers ----post--> platform ----notify--> regional organizations ----help---> victims
victims ----signal danger--> regional organizations ----help--->victims ----post story--> platform
storytellers collaborate, regional organizations/partners collaborate

The listeners can use this platform in other ways -
  • News providers can broadcast these stories on news channels, local newspapers etc.
  • Citizens can tweet and spread the word.
  • Aid organizations in the region or outside can collaborate to combine efforts, resources.

Ideas from collaborators on this post:

What the storytellers post, what is notified to regional organizations and what the other listeners view will be in a structured format which is something to work on as we design this platform. 

This platform can possibly be extended to the victims themselves by providing them the capability to post stories as well as being to able to maintain a platform that connects to stories while maintaining the truth & avoiding information overload.

Potential names for this platform:

Connect (in different regional languages)

How does your idea gather AND verify information? How does your idea keep those who use it safe?

The idea gathers information from the storytellers who are registered on the platform and are accountable for the stories they post. The stories are monitored and tracked as they come into the platform. The concept is more focused on creating clarity, awareness and enabling actions. The storyteller's profile is visible to those monitoring the platform but they can choose to be anonymous to the wider audience.

How might your idea be designed to scale and spread to help as many people as possible?

We invite companies/organizations around the world who employ the storytellers to register on this platform. Along with USAID, we invite aid organizations to be a part of this platform. This platform can be first tested in a certain region and can be scaled to help as many people as possible.

How might your idea make use of exisiting technology? Has your idea been tried in a different or related context?

Yes, in a related context - Ushahidi, LRA, Witness. We can possibly leverage one of the existing crowd-mapping platforms but this concept aims beyond the existing platforms with stricter filtering, tagging, focused only of specific storytellers and an added level of aid/regional organizations overlaid on top of the stories to allow for collaboration.

How could you begin prototyping this idea in a simple way to begin testing and refining it? Who would use your idea and/or who is using it now? Is your idea technically easy medium or hard to implement?

Focus on a particular region. Work on getting storytellers registered on our platforrm. Identify all aid organizations in the region. Get them to register on the platform. We can observe the stories and activities in this region for a short period and test this concept and the platform. May be partner with one of the news networks to start with and get their storytellers to register and post on this platform.

How is your idea adapted for conditions in hard-to-access areas, such as lack of internet and mobile access? Can users adopt it without much behavior change?

Based on the region/country, we implement the best technique for people to be able to reach the storytellers/USAID organization. In Lisa's case, she managed to reach this region and connect with these people and share her story after in spite of being in a region with no internet access. Others might be in the middle of a crisis situation. Some others finding ways to get into a region of crisis. The storytellers make it happen, getting to regions difficult to reach. Along with uploading a story using a mobile app/web app on our platform, we can have other ways by which the storytellers can share their story - either by SMS, MMS, emergency number, radio or simply mail.


Join the conversation:

Photo of DeletedUser


Hi Arpitha,
Great video. your idea is in many ways similar with what I have in mind and posted here (
In order to make the most of it, you may wish to have your story teller report information in a structured manner to ensure relevance and later facilitate verification. Information which is structured can then be shared with rescue/emergency services, and shared (see flowchart again for details) with other persons registered on the platform for verification purposes. Also the sender can be told where to get relief. Please have a look and let me know what you think as I'd love to cooperate to see this idea become reality.

Photo of Arpitha Shetty

Thanks Christophe!

I agree the format posted by the storytellers and that notified to the regional organizations need to be specific and this detail is something that needs to worked on as we evolve designing this platform. I've updated my entry to your point. I've added you to my virtual team and would love to hear more of your input.

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Thanks Arpitha,
Ideally such a platform should allow direct witnesses, victims, but also, why not perpetrators, to tell their side of the story, and should not be limited to reporters, explorers and the like. The reason is that they will that they want it or not already add a subjective layer to the information, or in other words, the information they will be reporting about will be second-hand. The reason why I believe that we should give a say to those primarily affected is because they are the real experts and we should look at finding ways to enpower them to enact change on issus which are primarily of their concern. I also have lots of ideas of how to perform source evaluation, but it would be too long to discuss here. I will update my concept over the WE to reflect this.
Wish yo a nice day,

Photo of Arpitha Shetty

I agree. Ideally, we'd like to extend this platform so that anyone can post their story. But along with that we'd need a high filtering layer to avoid information overload and maintain the veracity of the stories. Great to hear you have ideas on that!

My idea of restricting this platform to the storytellers (journalists, photographers, aid organizations etc.) was so the listeners trust the information since these storytellers will be accountable. Also, they are storytellers at their jobs and can help attract the help needed. And in most cases, the victims might not be in a position to post their story at all. And overall - it is a platform that listeners trust and go to and help enable actions.

Photo of Arpitha Shetty

Also - Kenneth Walton had some ideas here on extending this platform to anyone to tell a story-

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