presentations, storytelling, technology

Share Small Moment Stories Using Digital Stortytelling Tools

8 Comments 31 October 2013

Next Up Fdn other

Instagram post from the Next Up Foundation

On Tuesday, I offered a workshop at the Massachusetts Nonprofit Network’s annual conference on Digital Storytelling Tools, subtitled “The One and Only Storytelling/Digital Tools/Speed Dating Mashup.” The workshop had four goals: leave with a solid “small moment story” idea, have an idea of how to use stories to reach organizational goals, develop at least two approaches and tools for sharing your small moment story digitally, and have FUN developing your story ideas. (Ideally facilitated with “speed dating-style” conversations where you switch partners every six minutes.)

My approach in designing the workshop was to offer just enough resources and information to inspire learning conversations, and to allocate most of the time for learning conversations. This approach was highly influenced by both Beth Kanter’s recent blog post on designing trainings, and my own experience offering a version 1.0 of this workshop with colleague Zan McCulloch-Lussier at NTEN’s conference last year. Overall, this was one of the most successful workshops I’ve delivered. The conversations enriched the content, promoting real-time, interactive learning experiences.

In the first half of the training, we focused on finding the “small moment stories” already known to the organization. I offered a few examples, and reviewed the “four types of stories you have right now.” (The latter modified from Nancy Schwartz’s two-part series on organizational stories here and here.) Then I asked folks to pair up, share their organizations’ small moment stories, and offer constructive story design feedback.

The second half of the training built upon the small moment stories, by focusing on selecting a digital media that would amplify the story and share it effectively through the organization’s digital footprint. The universe of digital storytelling tools can be segmented into four categories, and the presentation (bottom of this blog post) displays examples of how nonprofits are using many of them. They are segmented as such:

  • Static photo storytelling tools (such as Instagram, Pinterest, Flickr, PicMonkey, Tag Galaxy)
  • Data visualization storytelling tools (such as Google Earth and mapping tools, ThingLink,, Dipity, mind mapping tools)
  • Video storytelling tools (such as Instagram video, Vine, YouTube, Vimeo, Animoto)
  • Curated storytelling tools (such as, Kontribune, Storify,

Then came the speed dating part! Participants lined up their chairs in facing rows, and had a six minutes between them to jointly consider how each of their small moment stories might be best expressed — through data visualization, video, photos, or curation, and possibly think about which tools within these categories might be a good fit. Six minutes later, shift to the left and begin again with another partner. Everyone did this three times.

Here’s a Vine of the speed dating segment:


The training pushed participants to develop their own small moment stories in learning pairs, and brainstorm digital tools to amplify and share those stories. Each interactive workshop segment was designed to pull the participant’s story along through interactive, iterative story development. At the end of the day, a strong digital story is a perfect match of a good story and the right tools for highest impact. You may view the presentation from the workshop, below.

  • melindalewis

    This is so valuable, I think, in breaking through organizations’ fears that they have to have THE story, which, of course, can prevent them from ever telling A story. And I really like how you wove together some discussion about what we need to be telling, and the tools we can use to tell them, instead of assuming either that we know what to say and just need tools, or that we have the tools we need to deploy our stories. Plus, I love the animation! I have missed you!


    Debra Askanase Reply:

    Melinda, how did I miss this comment and your others? My apologies for the delayed response. I developed this presentation because I was always hearing from organizations that they wanted “help with storytelling.” After speaking with them, it often was the case that the help revolved around storytelling paralysis. Thus, the Small Moment Stories.

    In your advocacy work, have you used any of the storytelling tools presented?


    melindalewis Reply:

    I use a lot of Living Proof Advocacy–have you seen that book? The story map and 6-word reason exercise seem really helpful to nonprofit employees thinking through their own stories about coming to this work, as a way to connect to invitations to others. Happy new year!


  • William Keyser

    Debra, my new best friend, this is a great and useful post from a newbie’s perspective. Thanks you so much. I will be coming back to revisit and learn some more. I am an entrepreneurial storyteller and my new ebook Telling Startup Stories (take a look on Amazon) is the current subject of my bumbling social media activities and this post will help me bumble less.


    Debra Askanase Reply:

    Bill, my new friends at Marlboro. What a delight to have met you in person, recently! I just ordered your ebook on Kindle, and am not ashamed to plug it here: I’ll be happy to review it here once I’ve finished.


    William Keyser Reply:

    Debra, thank you for the seasonal gift!. This storytelling thing is something important to all of us in organizations – for profit or not for profit. It’s as much about self-confidence as anything else; we need the courage (and skills) to be vulnerable. Telling a story to make an emotional connection does put us at risk, but that risk is worth taking so that we can connect effectively with our audience. See you next year – Will


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  • Ashley DiGregorio

    Thanks for this, Debra! So very helpful. I am volunteering with a policy org rooted in community organizing – I am starting from scratch to help with storytelling and this will make a huge difference. Thanks, again!



Debra Askanase is an experienced digital engagement strategist, non-profit executive, and community organizer. She works with mission-driven organizations to develop digital strategies and campaigns that engage, create trust, and move stakeholders to action. Debra speaks at conferences worldwide on the intersection of technology, social media, and nonprofit organizations.

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