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Mapping Our Voices for Equality (MOVE): Stories for Healthy Change

By Samantha Benson,  Natasha Freidus, Afsaneh Rahimian, Nicole Sadow-Hasenberg, Seth Schromen-Wawrin

Communities with poor health outcomes often find it difficult to influence the policies, systems, and environments that affect them. To change this, a project in Washington State is giving these communities effective ways to make their voices heard. 

Mapping Our Voices for Equality (MOVE) received startup funding from Public Health – Seattle & King County’s Communities Putting Prevention to Work (CPPW) initiative in the summer of 2010. MOVE combines grassroots organizing with new media technology so that communities can produce digital stories and strategically use them for health. 

MOVE began as a partnership of four community organizations. Two community health clinics—Sea Mar and International Community Health Services (ICHS)—joined with Entre Hermanos, a nonprofit serving the Latino LGBTQ community and Creative Narrations, a small multimedia training company. Since the project began, five additional partners have joined MOVE.*

MOVE partners follow four core strategies: 

  • Strategy one: facilitate the production of community-based digital stories. 
  • Strategy two: use these stories to create policy, systems, and environmental changes.
  • Strategy three: share stories and access to storytellers.
  • Strategy four: replicate the MOVE model. 

Strategy One

At the heart of MOVE is the knowledge that stories can be tools for change. With this in mind, MOVE partners work with community members to produce digital stories that show the consequences of health inequities as well as the positive transformations that result from grassroots organizing. These stories are short, autobiographical narratives that are recorded in the storyteller’s voice and woven together with photographs, video clips, and music. 

MOVE trains staff at partner organizations to work as trainers in digital story production. These trainers take a flexible approach to story production, providing workshops for groups or working one-on-one with storytellers. In all cases, storytellers have full editorial control. MOVE trainers have facilitated the production of over 100 digital stories in English, Spanish, Cantonese, Mandarin, and Vietnamese. 

Strategy Two

One of MOVE’s primary dissemination strategies has been to host community forums. These forums connect story producers with key audiences. To date, MOVE’s partner organizations have hosted four community forums. 

ICHS, one of the original MOVE partners, jointly with the local community development authority, held the first MOVE forum in October 2011. Over 100 community members attended to express their concerns to Seattle City Council members and Seattle’s Department of Parks and Recreation about a proposed budget reduction for the International District/Chinatown Community Center. This proposed reduction would cut weekly access to the center from 45 hours to 25 hours. The Chinatown-International District has the lowest amount of greenspace per capita of any neighborhood in Seattle, so indoor opportunities to be physically active are critical.

When the proposed cuts became known, MOVE staff identified center users who had compelling stories. A MOVE trainer worked with youth from Wilderness Inner-city Leadership Development (WILD) to interview an active senior citizen who used the International District/Chinatown Community Center.

The resulting digital story explained how the center provided physical activity opportunities to seniors. A month after the forum, the City Council announced a final, revised budget which reinstated ten of the hours slated to be cut.

Strategy Three

Using an interactive map, MOVE makes the digital stories easily accessible on its website, www.mappingvoices.org. The map is populated with digital stories, photographs, and other videos. Visitors can also browse by language, organization, and topic. Between the launch of the website on October 20, 2011 and September 18, 2012:

  • The digital stories have been viewed 6,147 times, primarily by residents of King County.
  • An estimated 4,000 additional individuals have viewed the website and stories in group settings throughout King County. Ninety percent of the screenings have been in low-income community settings, including health fairs, organizational summits, conferences, and diabetes education classes. 
  • Eighty-five storytellers have produced stories. Seventy-five of these are from linguistic or racial minorities. Seventeen stories are told by youth, and eight by elders.
  • Fifty-one organizations throughout King County have participated in digital story production and screenings. 
  • MOVE kiosks have been set up in two clinic waiting rooms. 
  • Project staff also use social media and basic marketing strategies to disseminate the stories. Staff also share the stories directly with clients, partners, and funders.
 

Strategy Four

As MOVE transitions to a post-CPPW funding model, it is expanding in scope. MOVE now includes stories on women’s health and hepatitis B. In early 2013, MOVE began to incorporate stories of cancer prevention, LGBT issues, and more. MOVE has also expanded beyond King County to include Yakima County and potentially all of Washington State.

MOVE partners now are technical assistance providers to other grassroots organization interested in the MOVE model. The team provides tools, services, and training to organizations wanting to create their own stories on a fee-for-service model. MOVE staff are also exploring collaboration opportunities with other national mapping models. 

 

Results

In addition to the hours restored at the International District/Chinatown Community Center, MOVE stories and forums have influenced other policy, system, and environmental changes.

  • A small business owner in South Park (a “food desert” neighborhood in Seattle) decided to open a produce shop as a result of a MOVE forum. 
  • The 2012 Washington State Legislature restored funding to the Washington State Quitline following cuts that closed the program. Restoring the Quitline, particularly the Spanish-language line, was a specific objective of MOVE. 
  • In response to a MOVE forum at Concord International Elementary School in Seattle, parents and teachers discussed strategies for better nutrition and access to physical activity. The school subsequently adopted policies that are resulting in less food waste and improved classroom performance.

More efforts are needed to better understand how digital stories can be used for education, civic engagement, and health promotion, but those involved in MOVE have experienced firsthand that digital storytelling is an effective grassroots tool for improving the health of communities.
 
 
*A current list of partners is available at http://mappingvoices.org/note/51.

 

Authors

Samantha Benson, MPH, is a Research Coordinator at the University of Washington in Seattle. 
Natasha Freidus, MCP, is Co-Director of Creative Narrations, a company that provides training and consulting in the use of media for social change.
Afsaneh Rahimian, PhD, is a Program Manager at the Center for Community Health and Evaluation, Group Health Research Institute in Seattle.
Nicole Sadow-Hasenberg, MPH, is Strategic Communications Coordinator for Seattle-King County’s Department of Public Health’s Communities Putting Prevention to Work initiative.
Seth Schromen-Wawrin, MUPM, is the Data and Outreach Manager for Creative Narration’s Mapping Our Voices for Equality project in Seattle.
 

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