Presenter: Louis BickfordJune 21, 2018

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How can personal stories strengthen feedback?

Stemming from the traditions of oral history, Memria is a software and services company that has been built to complement existing tools used by nonprofits, advocacy organizations, libraries, and other institutions to enhance their story collection abilities. Working with organizations and businesses across sectors, Memria collects first-person accounts and highlights impactful autobiographical stories from constituents whose experiences need to be heard. These narratives are captured at a scale – supporting organizations to tap into insights they may otherwise miss.

Memria is now setting its sights on how storytelling can improve the philanthropic sector at large.

What would it look like if grant reports included the voices of constituents themselves? How would funders respond to first-person narratives? How do constituents feel about sharing their stories widely?

This LabStorm focused on how audio recording could help highlight important work, improve organizational learning, and shape future strategy while not adding an undue burden to program staff.

  1. Let constituent feedback guide organizational strategy. Memria’s audio stories could greatly enhance the understanding of constituents at every level of an organization. LabStorm attendees suggested internal listening sessions to prevent the gate keep of information and democratize access. Other suggestions included expanding Memria’s Sensemaking workshops, a form of meta narrative analysis, to include different arms of a philanthropy. Expanding these off the shelf products could greatly impact the dissemination of an organizations learnings and shape future strategy choices.
  2. Use storytelling in such a way that enhances program staff efforts. The self-recording nature of Memria allows program staff to reach those they may not necessarily hear from. It can avoid issues of bias or power dynamics and perhaps engage participants who may otherwise be uncomfortable speaking directly to a staff member. Additionally, first person story collection can provide insights that may be missed via other methods such as surveys. LabStorm attendees suggested that the goal of informal conversations is to get an answer that might surprise program staff.
  3. With great opportunity comes great responsibility. The LabStorm attendees agreed that there is a wide array of powerful uses for Memria and its tools in the philanthropic world– ranging from creating engaging reports to enhancing monitoring and evaluation work. Throughout this engagement with the philanthropic sector, there needs to be careful consideration of the use of translators and technology to ensure that as the scale of collected stories increases the mission of Memria remains: to collect stories from those whose experiences deserve to be heard.

This conversation sparked a lot of exciting conversation and we look forward to the next steps Memria takes in their feedback process. This LabStorm got us thinking about different ways to incorporate audio stories into reporting processes. Do you or a partner do this really well? We’d love to hear about different innovative ways you incorporate constituent feedback in the dissemination of your learning. Leave a comment below or email us at [email protected].

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