Introduction to Story Capture

Our original goal was to create an easy-to-use tool and process for chronicling non-profit initiatives, volunteer projects, and corporate social responsibility (CSR) programs.  But we've also realized that the same approach is useful in a wide variety of fields and communities, including healthcare, marketing, and product development.

In our blog ( we explore a variety of ideas related to narrative content, metadata and knowledge management, social media, and innovation, as well as our current domain interests: applying innovation to long-term care and caregiving (CareLab), and applying an arts-based perspective to science education (ArtSTEM).

Story Capture looks and works like many common blog systems, but provides a set of tools for reversing the sequence of blog posts (putting them in chronological order) and then editing the resulting "story line" into a coherent narrative.  Participants and staff can input story material using widely accessible social media (blog posts, email, Twitter, etc.) and then edit that material (through a shared interface) into compelling stories, articles or web pages including photos, video and other types of media files.

Logging in to Story Capture

This is a prototype site; you'll need to log in to add or edit stories, or to view stories which are still "works in progress" and not  yet public.  Email us at and we'll send you a login, or you can register yourself and we'll approve later. 

The Basic Idea

The basic idea of Story Capture is simple ... create a story, blog about what you're doing (write a paragraph or two) on a regular basis, and attach photos or video that you've shot.  Then we provide an easy way to roll up those blog posts and generate a "story line" ... the same content in reverse order (the linear sequence in which we would tell a story), formatted to be easy to read and/or re-edit into a final report or web document. 

How Tos and Suggestions

Of course, the tool is just a convenience. What's important is your process for capturing the story.  (Building a story can be an individual or group effort; if you're mainly a visual person, you might want to collaborate with a word person, or vice versa.)  It helps to think and talk about what's the core story behind your project.  What are you trying to do?  Why is it important?  Who's involved in this story?  Who should I interview, what questions should I ask?  What's the timeline of the project, and how often should I write and shoot video or take pictures?  The depth and quality of the story will depend on thinking deeply about what you're trying to capture.

Check out  "How to ..." for nitty-gritty help on using the tool, and "Suggestions for ..." to get tips on how to improve your stories and media.

Who We Are

The Story Capture program is an initiative of the Citizen Creator project, which is being supported by the Learning Worlds Institute.  We're hoping to encourage the use of storytelling methodologies to help volunteers and non-profit organizations to document and celebrate the good work they do.  We're interested in developing and spreading the Story Capture process and tools through pilot projects and workshops.  Please contact us ( if you'd like to work together.

Related Projects (and Thanks!)

Using media and storytelling to encourage social change has long and distinguished history.  As part of this site, we'd like to develop a guide to those making great contributions.  Below is just a start on that list:

  • The Community Media Workshop at Columbia College, Chicago, was founded in 1989 to train people to tell the stories of their working communities to the media, and to improve relationships between the media and the diverse communities of Chicago & the Midwest. See CMW's Nonprofit Communicator, a handy RSS aggregator of community news feeds and NewsTips, a grassroots news service providing journalists with stories and sources from Chicago-area nonprofits and community organizations.
  • The Progressive Communicators Network links progressives with grassroots groups across the nation, assisting them develop communication plans. Its site includes a long list of member-rated handbooks for communications planning, including its own top-rated Raise Every Voice.

Some good individual storytellers also extend their insight into building effective stories:

  • Author and teacher Allison Fine keeps A. Fine Blog (on Social Media & Social Change). She hosts a weekly podcast, Social Good, for The Chronicle of Philanthropy, which includes, for example, "How Small Charities Can Create Effective Videos." This tells us that blogs are fine but "video is emotional and potentially lifechanging," and can do a great job bringing to life what an organization does every day, enabling donors to see stories and feel the passion -but "video needs to be built around a strategy of engagement."
  • Andy Goodman was a successful TV writer who then became president of the Environmental Media Association, which encourages media workers to incorporate environmental themes into their work. Today, his consultancy, a goodman, helps "good causes reach more people more effectively." He conducts popular workshops such as “Storytelling as Best Practice," publishes a monthly newsletter, free-range thinking, and offers online versions of his workshops at The Goodman Center.

As examples, here are a couple of personal narrative blogs that we've found pretty effective in telling a story: direct, good detail, and with just enough images:

  • My Year of Living as a Poor Person - a compelling personal narrative, starting in March 2009 of a 55-year-old woman living in Las Cruces, NM, whose business has failed and who later has to deal with the healthcare system - very timely.
  • The Clean Bin Project - "The goal is zero landfill waste. For one year we will not buy any material goods and will attempt to live without producing household garbage." A fairly regular blog by three housemates recording their year of living with minimal waste. Entertaining, direct, and with a good balance of text, images and video. The blog continues beyond the year - so go here for the archive.

And if you're interested in polishing your own digital storytelling skills, here are some collective community projects for you to consider participating in:

  • Healthcare Stories for America - Your chance to share your personal story about the urgency of health care reform in your life and the lives of those you love.
  • The Arts and United We Serve - Share your stories, upload photos and videos
     of your experience volunteering for the arts this summer - part of the President's United We Serve campaign through Sept 11, 2009.