Digital Storytelling Partnership, Fall 2016

Is your nonprofit ready to capture and share some of its compelling human stories? If so, consider applying for a digital storytelling production partnership with DePaul University!


If you work for a nonprofit that is eager to collect and distribute stories of your service recipients, staff, or stakeholders and would benefit from assistance, consider applying for a free production partnership offered by Professor Lisa Dush of DePaul University. This partnership will connect you with a team of graduate students from Professor Dush’s fall 2016 Digital Storytelling course, who will help your staff to develop one or two digital stories in video slideshow or photoessay format, as well as to create and implement a distribution plan for these stories. The stories you create through this partnership can be powerful tools for education, advocacy, recruitment, and fundraising.

The partnership will run from late September to mid-November 2016 (meaning stories will be ready just in time for Giving Tuesday!). We welcome applications from any Chicago-area nonprofit.

What is a Digital Story?

Digital Stories in Video Slideshow Format

The story below, “Our Neighborhood is Not a Dumping Ground,” is a digital story in video slideshow format, which was made for the REACH Coalition, a Boston-based nonprofit organization working for health equity. The story’s narrator describes her experience of living in a Boston neighborhood that has long been a site of illegal trash dumping, and it has the key characteristics of a digital story: a well-crafted, self-authored and self-narrated personal story, illustrated with images selected by the storyteller.

The narrator of this story, Debra, worked with a digital storytelling facilitator to develop her story: this engagement with the storyteller to yield a more authentic story, and one that the storyteller feels proud of, is an important part of the digital storytelling process. Once completed, Debra’s story was shown at a community discussion forum, and it was also circulated on the REACH Coalition’s website and Facebook page.

The stories you create in this partnership can be put to similar uses, and others such as these:

  • Stories that tell the personal experiences of your program staff can be linked to a recruiting page on your website.
  • Stories of service recipients can be posted on a website page that describes your services and/or inserted into a slideshow you use on outreach visits.
  • Stories that show impact can be linked to a donation page or delivered via an email fundraising campaign.
  • Stories of service recipients or other stakeholders can be played at an event, to focus attention and stimulate discussion. Note that while digital stories are not, in most cases, appropriate for showing at large events like an annual gala, the story or stories we make could be played at a volunteer orientation, in a discussion group, or at a board meeting or small event for prospective donors.

Digital Stories in Photoessay/Multimedia Webtext Format

The alternative deliverables of this partnership—which require less involvement on the part of the storyteller(s)—are personal stories told in photoessays, which look similar to these stories by Charity: Water or these stories by the Heartland Alliance. We ask only that the the photoessays reflect the ethos of digital stories—an emphasis on personal voice, a well-crafted narrative, and the use of ‘behind-the-scenes’ images.

We are flexible about the form your stories take: we can also create a hybrid form that embeds short audio narrations in a photoessay, creating a multimedia webtext that has the added intimacy of a human voice. Given the duration of the partnership and the students’ skill set, however, we will be unable to shoot new video and include it in the stories we make.

How Does This Partnership Work?

Each participating organization must commit to allocating one or two staff members to work with us between late September and mid-November, for a combined total of 2-3 hours per week during this six-week period. These staff members will conceptualize a utility for digital stories with their student team, identify 1-2 storyteller(s) that can meet this need, and facilitate the collaboration between the storyteller(s) and the student team.

The availability of the storytellers during the late September–mid-November period is crucial: we estimate that a storyteller featured in a photoessay should expect to give 2-3 hours to this project, telling their story, gathering photographs, and giving feedback on the story-in-progress. Those featured in a video slideshow should expect to give 5-8 hours to the project, writing and revising their story, recording their voiceover, gathering photos, and giving feedback on the story-in-progress.

Note that if you have storytellers that would enjoy learning how to combine a voiceover and photographs using video-editing software, we are happy to involve them in this part of the process. The production software we use, WeVideo, is web-based, collaborative, and easy to learn, and we can provide you with free access to an account for the duration of the partnership.

The total time commitment and key dates for participating organizations are as follows:

  • W Aug. 24 at 6 pm, partnership application due
  • F Sept. 2, Prof. Dush notifies applicants with decision
  • Th Sept. 29, Required, 6-7:30 pm: 1 or more staff members from your organization attend Prof. Dush’s Digital Storytelling class on DePaul’s Lincoln Park campus to review story possibilities, meet the student team, and develop a storytelling plan.
  • F Sept. 30-Th Nov. 17, Required, approximately 10-15 hours total: Identify storyteller(s) and connect them with DePaul student team, locate any organizational photographs that will be included in stories, give feedback on draft version(s) of stories, and, if necessary, facilitate the uploading of stories to an online space and development/approval of related copy.
  • Th Nov. 17, Required, 6-8:00 pm: Attend class at DePaul’s Lincoln Park campus, to watch all team presentations on final stories and celebrate with food – storytellers are welcome to attend, too!

How Do We Apply?

Please submit an application form at your earliest convenience, by the deadline of 6:00 pm on W August 24. Professor Dush will schedule a phone conversation or site visit with organizations that seem a good match for the partnership. Final offers to participate will be communicated by W September 14.

If you have any questions about the project, contact Professor Lisa Dush at
Additional details about past nonprofit partnership courses run by Professor Dush are available online at