Coordinating the GG storytelling project project was a great learning experience , especially since halfway through the project, a new intern in CIM joined the research efforts. Claudia arrived 2 days before Sam and Michelle, our GlobalGiving external evaluation visitors. Claudia’s arrival also created new possibilities, since a lot of people in the local community, of all ages, speak German as a second language. With good research skills and a great background in volunteering with non-profits she contributed to a large extent to the development of the project.
We learnt a lot about our local community and new research methods in the process. We met many committed people, and although at first we thought we might be overdoing it (asking everyone we met for stories), soon others started to help us reach more people to interview, and ultimately we witnessed a lot of solidarity and team-work. It was probably the most skeptical people that helped us reach out to their connections, and they ended up closely following up on developments. They became a part of the project, despite us never imagining that the research would generate such interest.
In the end in CIM we didn’t really do this the ‘traditional’ way’, or following up on the guidelines offered by GlobalGiving. Despite recruiting a team of volunteers in the beginning, the progress was very slow, and being under pressure, we had to begin collecting stories as well, despite language barriers. What resulted from this though was that there is now a large group of people in Sanski Most, most not affiliated to our organisation, who know exactly what the project was about and who believed it was something more people should take part in.
We did a lot of outreach, and advertised it to the point that some locals will probably remember this for years to come. Normally when you meet with people for a coffee, or go out the first thing they ask is ‘how are you?’. In our case, it was ‘how are you and how many stories do you still need?’. People we got to know that summer also learnt the story question, and told others what we looked for specifically when trying to get them on board to share their stories. They didn’t do it because they had an incentive, but because they believed the GlobalGiving storytelling project was very interesting. Some people specifically mentioned to us that it was a great idea to gather data.
When I came to Bosnia in June 2014 and raised awareness of my research goals, people were asking how many stories we needed. I said ‘at least 100’. They didn’t really believe we would manage. It took longer, but the secret ingredient to gathering these stories was trust, and people buying into it. It wasn’t necessarily about locals or foreigners doing it, but about people getting used to the project itself.
The storytelling project motivated us to use a more story-centred approach in our programmes, be it though social media, our newsletters, or grant writing.