Thresholdcollaborative Storygathering Toolkit

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“There is no greater agony than having an untold story inside of you” ~Maya Angelou

Threshold Collaborative is a team of media makers and social activists who can take your vision for change to a new level. Whether it is strategic planning, impact evaluation, community engagement, public awareness or strengthening community connections and participation, our methods of “engaged storytelling” bring powerful, effective and lasting results. We document, learn from and share the stories that matter most to you, your community or your organization. Threshold Collaborative has developed a set of participatory strategies that integrate oral history, storygathering, photography, video and community engagement. These methods are used to document and examine issues from the perspective of “resident experts”, in order to democratize knowledge and build inclusiveness. The Goal of this toolkit is to guide you through the steps of participatory story creation techniques to build knowledge, broaden participation and deepen the impact of your work. This will help your organization effect change in your community. Included in this guide are interview techniques, audio and video editing resources, tips on getting great photos and ways of sharing your work.

StorYGatherinG Toolkit

When you LISTEN, it’s amazing what

How You Can Use Your Stories 1

Ten (really Great) Reasons to Gather Stories

QR codes for Postcards & Recipes 2

Preparation for Gathering Stories 3

Recording Equipment & Photographs 4

The Interview 5 Editing & Sharing your work Ethics 6

Resources 7

Release Form 8

Written by Alisa Del Tufo

Designed by Amy Anselmo & Samantha Leigh

Photographs: Amy Anselmo

Janice Levy and Sam Leigh

Copyright 2013 Threshold Collaborative Special thanks to Eddie McFallon

you can LEARN. When you act on what you’ve learned,

it’s amazing what you


change. ” ~Audrey McLaughlin

✰ We believe that a community engaged approach to storygathering

offers powerful pathways to help you strengthen and share your work. Stories are Inclusive: Stories are not divisive, they are open, non-judgemental and build connections. It is valuable to place storygathering in its own unique context. Stories play an important roll in healing, historical archiving and information gathering. The storygathering work that Threshold uses integrates gathering, editing and sharing stories in unique ways. Storygathering is not Journalism, Therapy or Oral History.


(really Great) Reasons to Gather Stories

1. Tap the ideas and insights of your community. Everyone has something important to share! 2. Build relationships and empathy amongst individuals and groups. When all is said and done, it is about relationships.

3. Surface “living knowledge”. People who are most affected by issues should impact the way change is made. Sharing insights through stories is an effective way to do this.

4. Reveal nuance. Stories show the subtle and complex aspects of your work and people’s lives. 5. Broaden participation. Deepen buy-in and strengthen inclusion. This will help us to build momentum for change.

6. Affect policy. Bring grassroots story power to your efforts to make systemic change.

7. Document and share knowledge. Stories are a powerful way to spread the vision and impact of your work.

8. Contribute to history. Archive your work so that others can learn and pay tribute to your community voices. 9. Strengthen your impact through outreach and public relations.

There is nothing like a powerful story to impact the way others think and feel.

10. Have FUN. Story gathering is a great way for people of all ages and walks of life to get to know each other.

How You can Use Your stories

Stories have many potential uses that will help your organization communicate the importance of its work. Radio and Podcasts Your edited stories can be used on your local radio stations and as podcasts. Websites/Social Media Content Your stories can be shared to a broader audience and create community. Printed Materials with QR codes QR (quick response) codes are digitally encoded graphics that when scanned with an iPad or smartphone app like QR Reader or Red Laser, can link to a website where a story is archived. They can be used on posters, stickers, postcards, in laundromats, on bus shelters or the sides of buildings, etc. Traditional website addresses can also be used. Community Engagement & Knowledge Gathering Story gathering helps you learn from your community and build stronger relationships that will support change. Advocacy Stories are a powerful way to share the value of your work with public officials and funders. Public Awareness Stories can be part of pre-sentations, campaigns and strategic communications initiatives. They are effective ways to encourage people to talk about their own experiences. Public Art Use audio or video linked stories through QR codes for public art installations. Buy In Sharing stories of community members helps others feel more comfortable participating.


Threshold Collaborative is currently working on several large-scale initiatives. One, about food access, is with a national organization called, Wholesome Wave. Threshold and Wholesome Wave partnered to develop a national learning community using stories and participatory action research. Our goal is to strengthen connections between local food economies and low-income consumers, making fresh, healthy food more accessible and affordable. Here’s an example of a printed QR code on a recipe postcard that can be used for outreach. The QR code links to a video about Wholesome Wave’s programs.

Roasted Adirondack Reds

from True Love Farm

2# little red potatoes or other sweet lowstarch fingerlings 1-2 tablespoons olive oil a generous crank of fresh ground pepper salt, sea salt is nice if you have it on hand. optional: fresh rosemary & garlic Cut potatoes into halves or quarters, that will cook evenly. Toss in a bowl with olive oil and salt & some fresh rosemary and chopped garlic, if desired. Spread in a single layer on a cookie sheet. Roast in a 400o oven for 35-45 min. turning every 15 minutes so they’re evenly and gently browned. Test with a fork for tenderness and...


✰ Servings: 4-6 ✰ Prep Time:15 min. ✰ Cook Time:45min.

Eddie’s Story


PreParation for GatherinG Stories ✰ This is the heart of the matter, so take your time on this part.

Confidence Your sense of ease and confidence will help the person you are interviewing to relax. You may want to practice doing some interviews with family, coworkers or friends.

Questions Plan your questions before the interview. Think about the bigger story you are trying to share and craft your interview questions appropriately. The goal of our work is to find ways to listen deeply and learn from the insights and experiences of others. The questions you ask need to be open ended and objective.

Sound Quality Background noise can be distracting (turn off/unplug fans, refrigerators, wind, air conditioners). The interview setting doesn’t have to be completely private, just away from loud noise. The type of microphone you use will help determine the setting in which you can do an interview. For example: a handheld external mic at a farmers’ market is great, an iPhone with just the built in mic will not work so well because it will pick up all the background noise. We also like clip-on lapel mics.

Whom to Interview Almost anyone could offer up a great story. Elders can share stories about the past. Participants of an organization have many insights. Artists, teens, and other ordinary citizens have amazing stories to share. Trust your intuition!

Recruitment What will you say to recruit people for an interview? People will want to know why you want to interview them and how and where their story might be used. It is important to let people know how their story/photograph can help others. For example: “ Hi, I’m with Threshold Collaborative, an oral history project. I’m doing a storygathering project on food and farming...would you like to share a family recipe with me?”

Where You can interview people almost anywhere that you/they are comfortable. Just make sure that there is not a lot of background noise and interference. The less distracted you and the interviewee are, the better the interview will be!

Time Stay attuned to your interviewee’s energy level. Most people tire after 90 minutes or so. You may need to 3

schedule more sessions as needed.


Equipment & Photographs ✰Many people now use their Smartphone, iPod, iPad, or iPhone to make recordings. Detailed information on their use is in an article on the website for The Minnesota Historical Society. ✰There’s a great tutorial on making your own phone/iphone mic from a pair of earbuds, see “Resources” on P. 7 for the website. Good digital recorders are available for $40 or more, depending on how sophisticated they are. Make sure that your recorder can accept an external mic, headphones, and that sound can be uploaded to your computer via usb, the internet or a memory card.

Recording Equipment Understand your equipment before you start interviewing. One of the worst things that can happen is to do a great interview and find that your recorder was not ON.

Microphone & Headphones In addition to your recording equipment and camera, it is good to have an external mic (the sound quality will be much better.) We also like to have a “dead cat” (a wind screen) handy for outdoor recordings. Headphones allow you to monitor sound quality, so there are no surprises later.

Camera A digital SLR camera is the best, but we are also interested in what people can get on their phones. An 8mp camera (or better) is ideal.

Release Forms are included in the tool kit. Personalize it for your work, print as many as you will need. Each person you interview must sign a release. If you need to translate the form into a language spoken in your community, please do so before you go to the interview. Interviews that are not accompanied by a release cannot be used.

Also Bring: Extra Memory Cards, a tripod, extra batteries, chargers and a pen.

OPTIONAL Furniture: a table, comfortable chairs, some water and snacks.

The rule of thirds Take lots of photos!

✰Natural lighting (outdoors) is always best, try to get images that have good contrast. Composition allows you to frame a photograph in such a way as to make it more aesthetically pleasing to view. There are a few basic rules that will help to greatly improve your photos. ✰ Don’t put the subject in the center of the viewfinder. Remember the game tic-tac-toe? Picture the crosshatch of that game in your viewfinder. Put your subject at any point where the lines intersect and you’ll be in great shape. If the subject you are shooting is predominately horizontal, align it with the imaginary horizontal line. If vertical, align it with the vertical line. This is called the rule of thirds and will vastly improve the look of your photos. Just by utilizing this one technique, you will be off to a great start in creating beautiful photos!

(adapted from Squidoo, Photography Basics for Beginners) 4

The Interview

Sometimes you may want to record a brief introduction on site when possible, capturing the essence of the place or the nature of the interview, (or you can have the interviewee introduce themself or read the question they are answering) For example:

“This is Amy for Threshold Collaborative with Jennifer Lawrence, from Polymeadows Farm located in Shaftsbury, Vermont. This story is about how she decided to become a full-time farmer.”

Editing and Sharing The kind of storygathering we use and teach is enhanced and


by editing.



Shorter, more

condensed stories have many uses and are more suited for sharing with larger audiences.

Once you have oriented the interviewee and had them sign the release form, now you can start the interview itself. You may be conducting a long oral history which could take several hours or a more targeted interview lasting 10-20 minutes. Take your time and focus all your attention on the person you are interviewing. Start by making the person feel welcome and comfortable. Make sure the mic is placed properly and that there is no wind or loud background noise (by listening with your headphones). See whether they have any questions and then tell them you are turning on the recorder. We have found that asking a question that is a bit off topic helps people relax and open up. Feel free to make up your own but here are some questions that might work for you.

* How long have you lived here? * What is your favorite piece of music? * What is the name of your first pet? *What is your name? Do you like your name? Ask your questions. Smile and nod a lot. Be prepared to go with the flow. A good interview just feels like a conversation. Remember to listen and try to hold back comments, like “uh huhs” and other interuptions that are really hard to edit out. Laugh on the inside. We find that it helps to prepare your interviewee with a statement like, “I’m going to try and be really quiet during your story, so don’t feel awkward if I only 5 smile and nod a lot.”

✰ There are MANY audio and video

editing platforms and apps. You can download free editing software at Audacity. Some people use Garage Band. Threshold uses Hindenburg. There is a free 30 day trial version if you’d like to check it out. They also have an app for iPhone/iPad. Another great way to upload and edit sounds is in SoundCloud, they have an app for iPhones as well as Android phones. Sound Cloud has tutorials that will help you.

Vimeo and Youtube also

have great (free) video apps for iPhones and iPads.

Ethics A great resource is the Oral History Association:

The story gathering and sharing process is powerful. It can do many things; celebrate triumphs, connect people, document and preserve memories and help storytellers engage with their lived experiences in powerful ways. The work we do to support strength and resilience in our communities and individuals requires us to have high ethical standards that are flexible and transparent. Here we provide an outline that will inform our conversation about story gathering, sharing and publication ethics. 1. Control: The story teller should have as much control as possible over the conditions of the interview. This means that the practical (time, location, duration, type of recording technology, sharing strategy) and content (types of questions, scope of the interview) decisions should be determined in a conversation between story gatherer and story teller.

2. Well-Being: We are committed to the physical, emotional, social and spiritual well-being of story gatherers and sharers. We incorporate strategies and safeguards to ensure well-being. 3. Process and Product: We are as concerned about the process in which we engage to gather stories as we are about the end product of our work. 4. Strength Based: All those who share their stories will be supported in their telling from a position of strength and resiliency. 5. Boundaries: As facilitators and story gatherers it is important for us to maintain healthy and appropriate boundaries. 6. Truth: Story tellers have the right to share their truth as they remember and understand it. 7. Informed Consent: Confidentiality, decisions about how, when and where stories can be shared as well as the products developed from story gathering work is vital to high ethical standards. Decisions regarding informed consent can change and shift throughout a person’s life time. 8. Shared Ownership: The story teller owns their story. They may share it with the story gatherer and the organization with which they work. There may be multiple ways that stories get shared depending upon ownership and consent. 9. Creating Safe Space: It is important to create a safe space for people to tell their stories. 6


www. (p. 2) How2, Apps, Social Media & Story Sharing www. www. www. QR Codes, Kaywa: UQR me: Apps: see iTunes for QR Reader (p. 4) Recording


iPhone Article: Minnesota Historical DIY mic. YouTube: Digital Recorders: Photography: Microphones and Adapters for iPhones:

Other Sites of Interest (p. 5) Editing

Audacity: Hindenburg: (p. 5) Sharing

Dropbox: SoundCloud ,Vimeo and Youtube (see above)


Oral History Association: Groundswell: Transom: PRX, Public Radio Exchange: Vermont Folklife Center Center for Disital Storytelling, Berkely, CA Centre for Oral History and Digital Storytelling: Cowbird:

P.O. Box 512 North Bennington, VT 05257 802-440-1575

Release Form Thank you for participating in_______________________________(name of project) with Threshold Collaborative. We collect ideas and stories from people in order to effect positive community change. We appreciate your willingness to share your ideas and stories. This form will serve as a statement of your willingness to participate and a release of information. I hereby grant permission for THRESHOLD COLLABORATIVE and _____________________________(“Partner�) to record my story and use my photograph in any and all forms. I give THRESHOLD COLLABORATIVE and Partner the right to use my image, voice, and name in connection with the Project, whether used in excerpts or in full, for reproduction, distribution and for any associated advertising or publicity. I acknowledge that THRESHOLD COLLABORATIVE own all rights to the results and proceeds of my services rendered in connection herewith. All permissions granted by me herein shall be effective in perpetuity and extend and apply to THRESHOLD COLLABORATIVE and Partner and its assigns, contractors, successors and agents. I have read and understand the above: Printed Name: _________________________________________________________________________________ Email Address: _________________________________________________________________________________ Phone Number: ________________________________________________________________________________ I do not want any identifying information used in connection with the Project. Date: __________________________________________________________________ Signature: ______________________________________________________________ Signature of parent or guardian if under age 18: ______________________________________________________


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