Digital Storytelling for Social Awareness


by Dr. Susan Cardillo

Research suggests that as many as 56 percent of online supporters report compelling storytelling as a motivation to take action on behalf of social causes.

A new study from the Rockefeller Foundation shows what nonprofits need to harness the power of narrative and networks to enhance their reach, resources, and impact.

The best stories are those we tell again and again. For social causes, this means crafting inspiring, shareable tales that audiences will eagerly pass on.

Stories or narratives have been shared in every culture as a means of entertainment, education, cultural preservation and instilling moral values.

While the essence of the stories we tell may remain the same, the ways in which we can now share these stories have changed dramatically with the development of digital communication technologies. Access to simple, easy to use media production tools and resources in conjunction with the potential for immediate and universal online publication has significant implications for literacy thinking and practice.

Digital Storytelling is a powerful tool for inspiring action and change and influencing thought leaders, funders, and decision makers.

Digital storytelling takes the art of oral storytelling and engages a palette of technical tools to weave narratives using images, graphics, video, music and sounds mixed together, using a voice narration.

Digital Storytelling can help social causes share tales of donor heroics, showcase the lasting positive impacts of their work, or simply express gratitude to donors and volunteers.

The Art and Craft:

My job/passion is to teach digital storytelling.  Making a digital story involves creative and critical thinking, inquiry, writing, discussion, design, production, reflection and presentation. It provides opportunities for students to enhance the expression of their own or others stories, thoughts and ideas in creative and engaging ways, across a diverse range of learning contexts.


  • Multimodal Literacy refers to meaning-making that occurs through the reading, viewing, understanding, responding to and producing and interacting with multimedia and digital texts. Multimodal is defined as the strategic use of ‘two or more communication modes’ to make meaning,  for example image, gesture, music, spoken language, and written language.
  • Multimodal productions require media resources. It is not OK for anyone to copy material – print, images, audio, film from the Internet, just because it is easy to do so. Artistic and literary works, films and music are legally protected by copyright. Your own creative work is also protected by the same rights.

The student has two choices:

  • Create their own media
  • Ethically sourcing media from sites such as:



Video: I use Videoblocks


Digital storytelling is becoming increasingly popular for social causes, educators, artists, journalists and Vloggers alike.

It is important to remember that this is still a STORY and no matter how many “bells and whistles” you add, the story must be told well to connect with the audience.

Here are some things to remember about telling a good story and creating media around it:


  • Write efficiently
  • Write Clearly
  • Simplicity
  • Accuracy
  • Know your purpose and audience
  • Be fair and balanced

Digital Storytelling:

1.Have an idea and

  • a strong emotional component
  • a purpose: instructional, persuasive, historical, or reflective
  • Look for inspiration. Digital storytelling is about passion, you must care about your story in order for others to care.  Develop stories that will inspire your audience.  Listening to other stories will help you learn what your audience identifies with.  Example: Storycorp.

2.Research, explore and learn

  • Search out ideas
  • Media resources for storytelling: Still Images, Audio, Video

3.Start writing- storyteller has enormous creative latitude

  • Remember to start with your Inverted pyramid: begin with Who, What, When, Where, Why and How. Give your audience the information they need to want to continue watching or listening. But there is more to digital storytelling than this, look at the Digital Media Pyramid below and so how it differs from the old fashioned idea of the inverted pyramid.


  • Constructing a narrative and communicating it effectively require the storyteller to think carefully about the topic and consider the audience’s perspective
  • Write-Edit-Repeat


  • Decide which images and video you will create
  • Decide which images and video you will repurpose
  • Set up the video and images with the audio script


  • Video
  • Images
  • Audio – both music and narration

6.Put together

  1. Use editing software to combine your work
  • Editing
  • Sound effects,Music
  • Titles and credits
  • the Final Cut

7.Share, Interaction and social media plan

  • Think transmedia– where the story is told using ‘multiple delivery channels’ through a combination of media platforms, all working as part of the same story. Jenkins argues that transmedia is more than just multiple media platforms, it is about the logical relations between these media extensions which seek to add something to the story as it moves from one medium to another, not just adaptation or retelling. Transmedia enables the further development of the story world through each new medium (H.Jenkin 2013)
  • Youtube
  • Website
  • Social Media

8. Monitor feedback, respond, use analytics to collect data and reflect


Idea places:

Digital Awareness Campaigns:

The Power of Non-Profit Storytelling:



Everaction (n.d.) Essential Elements of Digital Storytelling for Nonprofits. Retrieved from:

Jenkins, H., Ford, S., & Green, J. (2013). Spreadable media. Creating Value.

Roland, C. (2006). Digital stories in the classroom. School Art,105(7), 26.



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