Voice of Witness (VOW) is an award-winning nonprofit that advances human rights by amplifying the voices of people impacted by—and fighting against—injustice.
VOW’s work is driven by the transformative power of the story, and by a strong belief that an understanding of systemic injustice is incomplete without deep listening and learning from people with firsthand experience. Through two key programs—our oral history book series and education program—we amplify these voices, teach ethics-driven storytelling, and partner with advocates to:
- support and build agency within marginalized communities;
- raise awareness and foster thoughtful, empathy-based critical inquiry and understanding of injustices;
- and inform long-term efforts to protect and advance human rights.
The VOW Book Series depicts human rights issues through the edited oral histories of people—VOW narrators—who are most deeply impacted and are often at the heart of solutions to address injustice. The series explores issues of race-, gender-, and class-based inequity through the lenses of the criminal justice system, migration, and displacement. The VOW Education Program connects over 20,000 educators, students, and advocates each year with these stories and issues through oral history-based curricula, trainings, and holistic educational support.
Through community partnerships and consulting services, Voice of Witness also trains and supports organizations to use personal narrative and oral history storytelling for change in their fields.
Voice of Witness was cofounded by author Dave Eggers, writer & educator Mimi Lok, and physician Lola Vollen. Eggers originated the VOW book series with Vollen in 2005. In 2008, Lok transitioned Voice of Witness to a 501(c)(3) organization and established its education program.
Since then, Voice of Witness has amplified the voices of hundreds of individuals impacted by human rights crises around the world, including wrongfully convicted Americans, undocumented immigrants, agricultural workers, Indigenous peoples, communities displaced from public housing, and many more.
Through our education program, VOW has served tens of thousands of students, educators, storytellers, and activists across the US and globally. Our oral history pedagogy has been used to train a broad range of advocates for human rights and dignity, including teachers, journalists, attorneys, activists, writers, and medical professionals.
VOW’s strategic vision planning process took place over nine months and involved Voice of Witness staff, board, and our extended community of thought partners: educators, narrators (people impacted by injustice who share their oral histories with VOW), content experts, and funders. By the beginning of 2018, we had created a comprehensive strategic vision and implementation plan to chart our growth and goals for the next five years.
Read the Vision Plan here. Read VOW’s Racial Equity Statement here.