Since first coming to Bosnia and Herzegovina, storytelling became central to most of what I did. I never paid too much attention to it before, but I begun to purposely acknowledge how both myself and others around me used it. I had positive experiences, such as listening to inspirational stories that in one way or another changed my life, and negative (but constructive) experiences like witnessing hopelessness, trauma, anxiety, anger, disillusionment.
From an academic point of view, the conflict transformation approach was disappointing for me, and I surprised myself that despite my very negative experience with that specific module, I did not give up on storytelling as a means of researching conflict, on the contrary, I was still eager to learn both in formal and informal ways.
In 2014 I returned to Bosnia. Together with the CIM directors, we agreed to apply for a grant from GlobalFiving for a community feedback project. Basically GlobalGiving do not only provide you with the basic tools that any other fundraising website would, but they also put a lot of time into training community based organisations. From fundraising to social media, from M&E to reporting, they do it. For some years, GlobalGiving had been busy with a storytelling project in East Africa. Organisations from the region and their volunteers collected 57 000 stories from local communities. A new, easy to use analysis tool was developed and all the stories now make up a huge database. Organisations can input their stories, analyse and improve their programmes according to findings from the analysis. This led to a new model to be adopted by GlobalGiving: listen, act, learn.
At first, I was ok with the model, it sounded very good, and I was intrigued. Then, I was a bit worried about this development. As members of GlobalGiving, organisations would all have to follow the East Africa Storytelling Project approach in order to become more visible and gain points: collect stories, analyse, act on the findings, learn, and repeat. I thought that many community organisations would not have the capacity to do so much work just to keep a fundraising page, while for others bigger organisations, this would be hassle free. I knew for sure, it would be difficult for CIM, and was afraid that there would be little capacity to cope with the new system, particularly since we already had our own internal evaluation system. On the other hand, I liked to challenge myself and to find the best possible solution to a potential problem. I know this made me even more committed to find local capacity for CIM to fundraise on GlobalGiving, which was on my to-do list for the trip. In this way, we could ensure that feedback collection will happen on the ground, and I could still handle the communications and analysis from anywhere in the world.
I saw GlobalGiving raising the bar by increasing the standards for local organisations in terms of programming. So indirectly and slowly, GlobalGiving could create a network of grassroots organisations that have a professional level in fundraising, evaluation, and programme development. The tools they need are easy to use. The points based system is somewhat competitive. The rewards they get is too good to move away from. Those who will be serious about development work, will have adapt, improve and sustain an impact on the ground in order to keep getting the benefits. It really seems to be a win-win situation.
The whole process of planning the project happened very fast, I made a draft plan when the grant proposal was submitted, and since I heard the grant was approved, I was planning and thinking of strategies and back up plans on buses, trains, and flights, whilst the other CIM staff were recruiting volunteers. It was a massive incentive to move forward and brought a lot of enthusiasm to the office. Of course, some things worked well, but I also found it a bit challenging. The Bosnian way of working is way more relaxed than what I was normally used to.