VOW STORY LAB2020-07-25T02:59:15+00:00

The VOW Story Lab is a unique opportunity for storytellers working in the field of human rights to receive holistic support for oral history projects that amplify the voices of people directly impacted by contemporary injustice.

The Lab allows us to incubate and develop new projects by providing oral history training, editorial guidance, and project funding to a diversity of human rights storytellers in need of institutional support.

Launched in spring of 2016, the Lab supports projects from storytellers of all stripes, including journalists, novelists, scholars, educators, and advocates.

Story Lab Fellows work on their proposed project during a 3-month incubation period that includes:

  • oral history training
  • editorial guidance
  • and a small project stipend to support the development of oral history narratives.

Select Story Lab Fellows will be awarded VOW Book Fellowships to support the full development of their project into a VOW book.

Our goals are to:

  1. Provide swift and reliable support for projects with the potential to:
    • amplify the voices of people directly impacted by injustice and
    • build power among impacted communities and contribute meaningfully to their movement work
  2. Promote ethical, empathy-based storytelling to illuminate human rights crises
  3. Ensure quality, innovation, and diversity in the stories VOW narrators tell


VOW Story Lab fellows receive oral history training, editorial guidance, peer support, and a small project stipend to develop sample narratives during a three-month pilot phase.


VOW Book Fellowships are awarded to select Story Lab fellows to support the full development of their project into a VOW book. Fellowships cover project expenses and a living stipend to support dedicated project time.


The VOW Story Lab is possible thanks to passionate people like you. Will you join us in supporting in-depth, human rights storytelling?

Become a monthly sustainer,
or make a one-time gift today


Across the United States and around the world, new digital tools increasingly mediate access to basic human needs such as housing, food, physical safety, medical care, financial capital, employment, and family integrity. Automated eligibility systems divert millions from public assistance programs. Social credit systems rank citizens on a spectrum from most to least deserving, controlling who has access to credit, social inclusion, and political participation. Predictive models and algorithms decide who qualifies for home health care and which children are removed from their families.

The rapid global spread of the digital welfare state has been under way for at least fifty years and yet, it is only now being recognized for what it is: a human rights crisis. Under conditions of austerity, ethnic and religious nationalism, and white supremacy, these tools allow states to hide political choices behind a smokescreen of “neutral,” “objective,” and rule-bound decision-making. 

Voice of Witness’s new project on the emerging digital welfare state, spearheaded by coeditors Virginia Eubanks and Andrea Quijada, aims to find the human stories—from the US as well as Australia, China, Kenya, and India—behind the algorithms.

About the editors:

Virginia Eubanks is an Associate Professor of Political Science at the University at Albany, SUNY. She is the author of Automating Inequality: How High-Tech Tools Profile, Police, and Punish the Poor (St. Martin’s Press, 2018), Digital Dead End: Fighting for Social Justice in the Information Age (MIT Press, 2011) and co-editor, with Alethia Jones, of Ain’t Gonna Let Nobody Turn Me Around: Forty Years of Movement Building with Barbara Smith (SUNY Press, 2014). 

Andrea Quijada is a media literacy consultant and a doctoral student in Art History and Visuality at the University of New Mexico in Albuquerque. She is a co-author of “Girl Tech: Young Women of Color and Digital Media Technology,” in Media Education for a Digital Age (Routledge Press, 2015).

The United States is a nation of prisons, incarcerating more people than any country on Earth and accounting for 40 percent of lifetime sentences worldwide. It has the highest rate of recidivism in the West—nearly 70 percent of those formerly incarcerated are rearrested within three years of release. Many of those reincarcerated have not actually committed crimes, but, subject to the inscrutable whims of their states’ parole board, are dragged back to jail for missing appointments, being unable to find work, or simply misunderstanding the terms of their parole. Nationally, 33 percent of people admitted to prison are parole violators. 

Voice of Witness’s new project on life after incarceration seeks to illuminate the process of reentry in the Bay Area — a bastion of progressivism weighed down by income inequality and punitive policing. After years or decades of imprisonment, the formerly incarcerated are released into the most expensive rental market in the country with no money, no savings, and very little structural support.

There is a significant absence of literature and scholarship on reentry that places the lived experiences of those most affected at the very center. Coeditors Reggie Daniels and Ion Vlad will explore with narrators from across the Bay Area their complex and nuanced experiences of reentry, the specter of recidivism, and life on parole. 

About the editors:

Dr. Reggie Daniels is an adjunct professor at the University of San Francisco and a restorative justice practitioner. 

Dr. Ion Vlad is an adjunct professor at the University of San Francisco with a background in human rights.


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