About Me

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If you tell a good story then people will pay attention.

At least, that’s been my experience filming, photographing and writing about international development issues for NGOs and nonprofits. But when it comes to reporting on international development issues, there’s a tendency to fall into cliché storytelling: Person A had a problem, NGO B showed up and enrolled Person A in their program, then Person A’s life improved dramatically. We’ve all told this story before. I know I have. The cliché story or photograph isn’t a terrible one; it just doesn’t do justice to people’s complex lives.

I started this blog because I want to explore different and nuanced ways of telling good stories about international development and humanitarian issues. In my job as the multimedia manager at Bread for the World I’m constantly thinking of how to maintain the dignity of the people who have entrusted us with their stories while also meeting the organization’s communications goals. I hope this blog will be a place to share ideas. I also hope it will be a place to help people interested in NGO work understand the challenges we face using words, video, photos and audio to tell stories.

All opinions expressed on this blog are mine alone and not those of my employer.

Thanks,

Laura Elizabeth Pohl
Founder, NGO Storytelling


14 Comments

Linda Hansen says:

May 7, 2012 at 9:15 am

Hi Laura,

I am excited to see your website as I’ve been searching for some information on this topic.

I work for an NGO which focuses on building capacity for treating primarily children with disabilities in the developing world. One of our programs focuses on children with clubfoot, which is incredibly common and incredibly easy to treat if people know how. I am based in Nairobi in Kenya and I oversee our programs in Africa, which are now in 14 countries here.

I’m Australian and a friend at home had mentioned to me awhile ago about the use of narratives or story telling to generate awareness of programs, engage service users / potential users, improve programs etc. She has seen this used in Aboriginal communities at home. At the moment we write very basic stories about specific patients and their progress mostly for feedback to donors. But at the same time we have significant challenges in raising awareness of the services being available and engage communities in the services. We also have lots of problems getting the many staff to take good photos, which I see you mention as being a challenge in many places.

I’m really searching for some advice on where to look further for how better to use stories to a greater capacity. What are the options and how are they done? Any advice will be greatly appreciated!!!

Linda Hansen

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Laura Elizabeth Pohl says:

May 9, 2012 at 10:24 am

Hi Linda,

Great to hear from you and I’m glad you found the site. Could you send me an email at ngostorytelling (at) gmail.com so we can talk?

Thanks!

Laura

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Laura Cook says:

October 9, 2012 at 6:21 pm

Just wanted to say I have spent all evening looking through this blog and it is fantastic! Please keep it going! We need these kind of discussions and articles out there.
Laura

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Laura Elizabeth Pohl says:

November 23, 2012 at 8:21 am

Hi Laura,

Thank you for reading! I’ve been caught up with other work recently but will start posting more again.

Laura

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Kelsey Nocket says:

April 16, 2013 at 5:25 am

Hi Laura,

I discovered your blog yesterday and it thus far it has proven to be an amazing resource. Please keep it going! I am a graduate student, currently working as an NGO development volunteer in Peace Corps Macedonia. The bulk of my work here has been helping a local Roma organization to develop their storytelling/branding strategy. Your insight has been extremely helpful – particularly when it comes to the more difficult questions regarding ethics and property rights. Thank you – I’m looking forward to your future posts.

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Laura Elizabeth Pohl says:

May 21, 2013 at 3:35 pm

Thank you for reading, Kelsey! Good luck with your work with the Roma — it sounds fascinating. Do you have a website I can look at?

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The Value of Visual Storytelling for NGOs | Reluctant to Blog says:

April 16, 2013 at 11:39 pm

[…] the norm. Do you think there is some value in using visual storytelling to delve into a NGO’s complexities? Give people a chance to use their brains and actively […]

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Melissa says:

September 11, 2013 at 5:59 am

Wow, I wish I started to read your blog earlier! I’m finishing a master in communication and I may mention this blog in my thesis. What you are doing is pretty much what I hope to do with my life. I spent six months last year in Burkina Faso, working in a local radio station and I’m looking foward to go back in the field. Love the job section, keep it up!

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Laura Elizabeth Pohl says:

September 18, 2013 at 6:57 pm

Thanks, Melissa! I appreciate the support. Good luck with your thesis and getting back into the field!

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Denis says:

September 28, 2013 at 5:36 pm

How can I get in touch privately? I am starting an e-magazine and would like to discuss it with you. Thanks,

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Laura Elizabeth Pohl says:

September 29, 2013 at 9:52 pm

Hi, Denis. Thanks for reading. You can email me at ngostorytelling at gmail dot com. — Laura

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Kristy O'Leary says:

October 12, 2013 at 7:15 pm

Hi Laura,

I own an advertising / marketing firm that specializes in cause based PR and campaign development. I would love to chat with you about taking my work global. I have been doing a lot of research have found your site very useful. I would love to hear from you in the future.

Cheers,
Kristy

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Vineet says:

December 5, 2013 at 3:18 pm

Hi Laura,

I happen to stop by your webspace and found it very interesting and stimulating.

Iam a marketing professional based out of India with a passion for making images. I have been using my Photography skills to contribute to the development sector.

There is a gap in visual content available to the not for profit bodies, with the focus more on putting together and managing their projects, the photographs and visual content is at a low priority and often generated with little or no professional help. The result many a times is clichéd narrative, something that you also mentioned in your introduction.

I wondered if you would be open to accepting some narratives/stories to be put up on your webspace.

Also, if you have in your network organisations which are in need of photography services, I would be very happy to offer my professional time to their projects.

cheers
Vineet

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S. Bilal A. Aziz says:

January 24, 2014 at 7:13 pm

When I was searching, doing some data-mining I entered the words “brand storytelling” and your agency came up in the search. We are embarking upon building a ‘Luxury Brand” that supports “causes” as the major component of the brand. Our constituents in that space,are 1. Ultra-High Net Worth Individuals, High-Net Worth Individuals, Corporations some in the main, as well as those uninitiated as of yet, but are strong candidates to become “the new emerging (CSR’s)and or SRC’s and a the new communities of Non-Profits i.e. as 501c3,and Limited Profit Companies or L3C’s which will be our final designation or LC3 as they are now called. In our search to find a “strategic Fit’s” We came across your name and that is how I learned about your organization, and your agency’s background in “storytelling” brands. If this incorrect than I apologize for the intrusion, if so please let me know and I apologize for any convenience if so in any case you contact info and availability would be very useful.

My goal is to find a ‘strategic fit’ in the area of expertise that you have gained considerable experience in. My concern is finding the right matches. As a new start-up company, I can’t afford any miss steps, and it would require having laser accuracy and flawless approach to its execution, coupled with pin-point preciseness in the determination of each outcome as a basic rule. It is an exciting space, rewarding both inwardly and financial, I believe it sets a solid foundation for continued growth and a platform to build other opportunities within its context. I can send you attached copies of the business mission, strategic goals and execution strategy including our media strategy including web-sight layout,navigation,content areas. I would only request that you sign our NDA/NCA as a customary formality with start-ups

Fraternally Yours

Bilal A. Aziz
Chairman/CEO
MICFA

Contact Info:

Email: bevballar@aol.com
Phone: 508-872-1994 (In Boston)

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