The development storyteller [experimental: interactive story-producing workshop]

Madhushala Senaratne (University of Sussex)
Interrogating development through stories and experiences
Library, Seminar Room 1
Session slots:

Short abstract:

Participants critically explore processes of production of development narratives and imagery, assuming the role of a NGO communications officer. Choosing scenes, participants navigate various tensions, producing multiple outcomes, and rethinking established forms of storytelling.

Long abstract:

An interactive story-producing workshop, The Development Storyteller, takes a critical look at the processes of production of development messages, specifically, the practices and cultures that shape their production, placing these discussions within the changing global development setting. Adopting a Choose-Your-Own-Adventure format, the workshop invites participants to assume the role of the protagonist and make a range of choices that shape the direction and outcome of the story. The protagonist (the development storyteller) is a NGO communications practitioner whose task is to produce compelling media and communication products showcasing the positive impact of the organisation's work supporting conflict and disaster affected communities. Following an opening setting, participants can choose from various pre-written scenes. The scenes depict the protagonist navigating and negotiating various tensions, both within the organisation and the broader development sector, addressing fundraising and advocacy frameworks, political sensitivities, bureaucratic structures, and complexities around the representation of need. Moreover, in keeping with the conference theme, The Development Storyteller draws attention to alternative forms of storytelling, including rethinking new media's use, the need for plurality of voices in development narratives, and the urgency of looking beyond the traditional empowerment narrative. Each choice leads to a different ending, that is, a different type of communication product. Following a short introduction participants can work in small groups. Scenes can be debated. Participants can change their decision, however, must reflect on their impact on final outcome. Time would be dedicated for discussion and critical reflection. If interested, further collaborations on this work can be discussed. Those interested in contributing to this panel are invited to submit an abstract proposing a scene, setting, or event in response to a suggested theme below. The abstract/proposed scene could draw from scholarly work and debates, while incorporating elements of fiction and story-telling. A scene can involve other characters, tensions, dialogue etc. The panel will then be developed collaboratively based on the accepted abstracts, with longer written pieces (500 – 1000 words) invited to offer further context on the proposed scenes. The themes are left intentionally broad and open to interpretation. Suggested themes include but are not limited to: - Organisational structures: the purposes of storytelling in international development; NGO public communication strategies and frameworks; global-local NGO flows; - NGO-donor relations: donor objectives and NGO communications; - ‘Opening-up’ development communication: alternative forms of representing beneficiaries in NGO narratives and imagery; the development storyteller’s vocabulary; collaborative approaches, multiple narratives and voices in communicating development; - New media and innovation: new media and digital technologies; innovative storytelling; - Local governance structures: NGO storytelling amidst authoritative regimes; navigating local political and cultural sensitivities; storytelling in conflict contexts.