But what does this look like?
We work with each of our partners to find the format for our collaboration that will best fit with their existing programs and maximize their resources. Our partnerships vary from ongoing collaborations with support groups that can span years, one-time workshops or short-term series, developing resources for and training staff of partner organizations to do the media creation with their own constituents, and strategic media initiatives that are developed collaboratively and launched locally.
Since every Survivors’ Truths project is developed with our collaborating partners and participants, no two projects are exactly alike. However, all of our projects:
Build on existing resources - we will often come in to an existing program, like a support group, where participants are already comfortable with sharing their experiences.
Use creativity to facilitate story development - depending on the project time frame and skill level of the group, we might use visual art, writing, and other formats to support participants in developing and sharing their stories or messages.
- Bring technology in service of the stories - we endeavor to capitalize on the power and accessibility of consumer technology and social media. Depending on what is allowed (we can’t record video or audio in a prison setting) and participants are comfortable with, audio and video recording and broadcast allows our work to have much greater impact.
A Typical Workshop: Inside/Out Project
Held at Serenity House in San Diego, we met with a group of about 12 women for two five-hour workshops. The goals of the workshops were for participants to have a rich and new experience of themselves through creative art expression and storytelling and to develop, from where they were at, their comfort level in working with various media. Group members were supported in speaking about their experiences in ways that they feel respected and honored, looking at their experiences from a broader social justice perspective, and considering how they might engage in advocacy for better criminal justice practices.
In the workshops, we used visual art and writing exercises to help the women separate their own identities from their criminal activities and incarceration experiences. As a group, we developed a picture of the stereotypes and misconceptions about incarcerated women that are unhelpful and keep them stuck in their lives. They then had the opportunity to propose alternatives and talk about exceptional programs that had been helpful to them.
Throughout the workshops, we had simple video cameras available and encouraged the women to film one another - to increase their comfort level with the technology. This simple video was edited together and included in a multi-media art exhibit at Expressive Arts San Diego. Attendees of the exhibit were invited to interact in various ways and propose their own ideas for improving our criminal justice system.
Survivors’ Truths helps groups of people affected by violence or discrimination who are generally either not seen or seen in a negative light. Our projects are geared toward bringing out the parts of each person’s story that include their knowledge, courage, and other resources that have kept them going. The process of telling their own stories of resilience using various creative media is a powerful tool for individual healing and moving forward.
Survivors’ Truths seeks out and builds relationships with a variety of groups and organizations already working on social justice issues. This brings opportunities to share our strength-oriented media approach in collaborative ways. We work with social service agencies, grassroots groups, and other organizations serving our project participants because they already know the population and can support participants more holistically. Our partnership approach adds value and brings visibility to the amazing work of our partners and builds their capacity to continue to work in this way.
Stories of resilience can inform, inspire, and push for social change. The media we co-create in each project informs others about the difficulties faced by marginalized groups, challenges stereotypes, and presents ways that others can help. Each project includes an advocacy strategy that amplifies the voices of those directly affected in conversations about the issues they face as well as the solutions that are needed.