2023 Workshop Series: Oral History Storytelling Skills and Ethics

VOW Workshop Series

Storytelling is a powerful method to advance justice and build community, and an understanding of systemic oppression is incomplete without deep listening and learning from marginalized communities. Building on 15 years of experience, Voice of Witness (VOW) has developed an ethics-driven oral history methodology that produces first-person narratives amplifying the voices and experiences of people directly impacted by—and fighting against—injustice.

We’ve adapted this storytelling approach into a skills-building workshop series for advocates, educators, and organizations seeking to use first-person narrative to advance a project or mission.

This engaging three-part oral history workshop series will provide a range of introductory training opportunities for you or your organization, helping you reflect on best practices, gain skills, and plan a storytelling project to amplify community voices. VOW staff and guest facilitators will share our methodology, explore the ethics of storytelling, and discuss key processes and tips on how to create impactful narratives. Speakers include past editors and narrators from VOW’s human rights book series who will share their firsthand experiences of developing oral history projects.

While we strongly recommend signing up for all three sessions for a comprehensive experience, each workshop is a stand-alone opportunity and participants are welcome to sign up for just one or two.

Workshop Details:
VOW Workshop: Narrator Experience & Storytelling Ethics
Workshop 1: Narrator Experience + Storytelling Ethics

This session provides an introduction to VOW’s ethics-driven, empathy-based approach to oral history storytelling, with a focus on trauma-informed practices and centering the voices and experiences of narrators throughout the whole project. We’ll create space to collectively reflect on important ethical questions, and a VOW narrator will share his perspectives on telling his story through the oral history process.

The workshop will be facilitated by VOW staff and Ashley Jacobs, a narrator from Inside this Place, Not of It: Narratives from Women’s Prisons. Ashley also produced her own oral history project that was featured in Say It Forward: A Guide to Social Justice Storytelling.

When: August 2, 2023 at 12:00pm PT

Register for Workshop #1 here.

Voice of Witness Workshop #2
Workshop 2: Exploring the Interview Process

This session provides an introduction to VOW’s narrator-centered interview practices, focusing on the role of empathy, trauma-informed approaches, insider/outsider power dynamics, respect, curiosity, humility, and more. We’ll explore case studies and create space to discuss best practices and challenges that may arise during the interview process.

The workshop will be facilitated by Voice of Witness staff and Katrina Powell, professor of Rhetoric and Writing at Virginia Tech and the founding director of the Center for Refugee, Migrant, and Displacement Studies. Katrina is the editor of VOW’s upcoming oral history book Resettled: Narratives of Beginning (Again) in Appalachia.

When: August 16, 2023 at 12:00pm PT

Register for Workshop #2 here.

Voice of Witness Workshop #3
Workshop 3: Building Narrative Editing Skills

This session provides an introduction to VOW’s oral history editing style that combines journalistic integrity and a literary approach to honor the narrator’s voice and highlight complex issues through personal story. We’ll explore concrete skills and tips and provide an opportunity to practice on a sample transcript from VOW’s rapid-response oral history project, Unheard Voices of the Pandemic.

This workshop will share best practices from VOW’s 15+ years of oral history storytelling exploring issues of race-, gender-, and class-based inequity through first-person narrative.

The session will be facilitated by Voice of Witness staff.

When: August 30, 2023 at 12:00pm PT

Register for Workshop #3 here.

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