At the heart of our work at Stories for Impact is the belief that stories should be, and indeed need to be, told by the people and communities who live and breathe them. When it comes to telling the stories of local communities, there are few organisations better positioned to amplify and share the narratives of local communities than councils. Across Australia, the work of local councils span everything from the day-to-day lives of residents, like rubbish pickups and libraries, to long-term planning on issues like sustainability, the economy and culture. Councils also hold another important responsibility: to listen to and act on residents’ voices – regardless of whether they’re expressions of frustration or delight – and what better way to do that than through story?
Over the past few years, we’ve been lucky enough to work with a number of councils across New South Wales (NSW) to create and share local stories through our storytelling workshops. Along the way,we’ve learned a thing or three, particularly in terms of how storytelling is uniquely placed to champion local voices but also about how storytelling is a powerful tool for councils to connect with their local communities. Here are a few of our favourite examples of the DIY storytelling and filmmaking being used by councils across NSW to share the great things happening in their community as well gathering insights from those who know their communities best: the people who live in them. .
Amplifying and engaging community voices through the Waterways Storytelling Program – Central Coast Council
NSW’s Central Coast is best known for its gorgeous beaches and lakes, something that residents in the area are very passionate about. Whilst the Council does extensive work to educate local residents on how they can do their bit to care for these waterways, it’s often difficult to communicate these messages in a way that resonates. And this is where our Stories for Impact workshops come in!
The challenge was clear: how can the Central Coast Council provide a way for residents to create and share videos telling people why they’re passionate about the coast’s lakes, rivers and oceans, and what others might do to care for them?
In January, they invested in a storytelling and filmmaking training program for local residents, which consisted of three weekend workshops. Residents were invited to share stories about their local waterways. While the Council knew that the locals were passionate about the area they lived in, they couldn’t have anticipated the vast and diverse range of residents who turned out for the Waterways Storytelling program. With participants as young as 12 all the way through to 80, participants were excited to learn the technical video making skills so that they could create digital stories about their lives on the rivers, lakes and oceans. Deeply passionate about voicing their concerns about how the local environment was being cared for, participants knew they wanted to channel that passion into content that would be heard by both the Council and the wider community. What emerged were authentic and powerful stories, ranging from personal perspectives and experiences to practical steps for the protection of the waterways. Check them out for yourself!
Here’s a story from one of the participants, Esther Beaton, about the canary of the water.