NPC 3/29/13 Featured Presentation: The Power of Digital Storytelling & Launch of TSdigs Challenge

Below is an edited transcript of the 3/29/13 NonProfit Commons in Second Life meeting, featuring Ale Bezdikian and Michael DeLong, who discussed the annual Digital Storytelling Challenge, the importance of storytelling and highlighted ways to get involved in this year’s campaign.




Ale Bezdikian

After studying journalism and comparative religion at Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo, Alexandra (Ale) Bezdikian moved to San Francisco and began producing videos, as well as fronting their outreach communications department. She has been writing as a free-lance journalist for a few years, publishing in the Armenian Reporter newspaper as well as pro bono for various other niche publications around the Bay Area. Most recently, Ale is the Global Content and Community Coordinator at TechSoup Global where she manages their annual Digital Storytelling Challenge.


Ale is a self-proclaimed non-conformist, and a huge fan of old books, great photographs, graphic novels and visual storytelling.


Michael DeLong

Michael is the senior manager of online community and social media at TechSoup. He enjoys connecting with folks — and connecting them to each other — online. He is particularly interested in how you or your org has used technology effectively. Michael's background is in communications and he considers himself "tech adjacent" more than a techie so his favorite thing is the story behind the technology. There's always a human angle behind the bits and bytes



To view the full transcript, go to:

Slides are available at:


          Rhiannon Chatnoir: Feel free to start whenever you are ready!


alebez: Thanks, Rhi!


Hello, hello everyone! As you may know, I’m Ale Bezdikian and this is Michael DeLong and we’re part of the Global Content and Community team at TechSoup Global. We’re here to talk to you today about our annual campaign called the Digital Storytelling Challenge, but also to discuss digital storytelling more broadly.


It's that time again!


That time of the year when TechSoup meets digital storytelling and we're very excited. I made a Vine video about how enthusiastic things have been over here these days.


Many of you have participated before, and we hope you will again. This year the challenge starts on April 2nd, which is next Tuesday, and will run through April 30th. I'll get to the campaign in just a few. But first I wanted to discuss storytelling with a wider lens.


We need to ask ourselves, why storytelling?


For me, the most obvious answer is that we are visual creatures. And we love chronicling daily life. Any Instagram feed is testament to that, right? We photograph breakfast, road signs, sunsets, and precious moments in between life happenings.


          Rhiannon Chatnoir: if you are not familiar with vine, it is a iphone/ios app that takes brief, 6-second long videos and allows you to pause/start/stop recording to do a almost stop motion or quick segments recording


alebez: That’s my Instagram profile on the web, and you can see there, a cityscape, sidewalk art shot, my puppy. These are the things that matter to us.


Technology has made it possible to capture and share many of these tender moments in an instant, and oftentimes to a widespread and distributed audience. Many of us have gone mobile to capture and engage with the rest of the social world.


But what we’re talking about today goes a little bit beyond simply uploading a photo to Instagram or a video to YouTube. Although, those platforms should be considered as ways to showcase various components of the work that each of you do.


It’s what we do with those images and individual assets that we’ll talk about today - because we’re talking about digital storytelling more broadly, aren’t we?


Digital storytelling seems to be a buzz word these days. But what does digital storytelling mean in the nonprofit context?


THE STORYTELLER - Digital storytelling goes beyond simply capturing and logging static moments. Because really, it’s what we do with those moments – in this context, the images we string together and share with a purpose - that inspire someone to act.


This sort of storytelling requires there be a storyteller - someone who considers the many images around us, and arranges them in an order that speaks to your audience.


I would encourage you all to think about purchasing a few apps for your smartphone, or to put aside a small budget for a hand-held device/ flip camera type of thing. And take a small, manageable bite out of digital production.


you can start by interviewing your members at your next conference with your phone. You can use data to create stories using free tools. Infographics that become content.


It's exciting, isn't it?!


          Rhiannon Chatnoir: yes :)

          Buffy Beale: sure is!

          CarynTopia Silvercloud: yes, having documentation of your activities is invaluable


alebez: I want to be mindful to include infographics in this discussion, as they are an emerging digital storytelling medium.



  • Transform Case studies 
  • Use data driven stories: maps, timelines, charts
  • Member spotlights
  • Mission based stories
  • Conference interviews

With this idea of Building a community of stories in mind.


At TechSoup, we have the Global Local Impact Map – a data driven map of photos, videos, and case studies that showcases impact across our network.


          Andy Evans: Fiction? Non fiction?


alebez: That is left to the storyteller, no? To decide.


Of course we want to educate and equip you with the tools you need to go out there and create a meaningful and effective story using tools that make sense for your need.


Whether that is using Machinima, using voice to narrate in Second Life, or even checking out other storytelling platforms at your disposal, we want you to start thinking about ways you can tell your story IN or WITH Second Life.


Storytelling in Second Life is possible, but somewhat limited. The folks at Linden Lab recently launched two interesting projects that may offer more dynamic storytelling options.


Earlier this year, they released dio - a web-based storyboard platform which allows users to “do something as simple as give you a visual tour of their house, or as complicated as telling an interactive fiction story or game.” Learn more here:


And Versu: - an interesting choose-your-own adventure app whose goal is to have the social interactions you, as the reader, have with the characters to constantly be changing.


Have any of you heard of or tried these new platforms? Check them out. They look interesting.


          Zinnia Zauber: Yes, and no. But, want to! I like the choose your own adventure format!

          Frans Charming: yes both

          Rhiannon Chatnoir: what did you think of them Frans

          Buffy Beale: so interesting all these new apps coming out

          Frans Charming: Versu on the time trying it, was very limited as it didn't have creation tools. The small stories allowed you change characters attitudes and behaviours towards each other. It could be interesting, It will need some one who can write well to make something compelling. Dio, is more visual and as such is easier to start in to, as you can just use your pictures to tell about.


alebez: Thanks for sharing, Frans!


          Zinnia Zauber: I thought they would be a great tool to help my video students storyboard their projects.


alebez: I'll get back to it.


Now this teaser is an example of what I believe what digital storytelling done right looks like. When you have the chance you can watch it at:


This is the story of a Somali refugee named Hawo, who came to the United States and found that her new community in Shelbyville, Tennessee wasn’t welcoming of her and other Somalis. Which lead to conflict.


This particular piece of media was spearheaded by the efforts of a group called Welcoming America, and was meant to open the minds and hearts of community members by emphasizing the beauty of welcoming your neighbor.


          Andy Evans: Beautiful


alebez: Welcoming America created small clips and modules alongside toolkits and discussion guides to serve as education building tools and training resources on how to literally welcome your neighbor. Or make immigrants and others feel more welcome in your community.


If I may read from the description of this particular module to describe the purpose of this digital media – "These modules serve as tools designed to support community leaders – including educators, clergy, law enforcement, public officials and employers – who are helping to integrate newcomers from Muslim majority countries.


It was developed to deepen discussions, break the ice around difficult issues, build-bridges across faith and culture and enhance cultural competency among service providers.”


This is digital storytelling done right.


Here are a few more examples: 


There are opportunities for storytelling all around us. Curating that, and funneling it back to the community you serve ultimately fosters trust and mutual respect between funders, donors, board members, and community members.


Now more than ever, nonprofits need to be able to tell their story digitally. Unfortunately, many lack the confidence, knowledge, or tools to get started, or need a little extra support or incentive to get going.


TechSoup wants to close that gap.


TSDigs combines instruction and friendly competition into a hands-on media making project to fill that hole with resources and education to embark into the digital storytelling space given where you are with capacity.


We hope to include more products used to create digital stories in our lineup of product offerings. Last year’s campaign featured product sponsorships from partners like Flip camera, Flickr, Adobe, and Survey Monkey.


This year, we’re highlighting additional cloud based tools and apps like Zeega, Vine, and WeVideo.


Many of you are TSDigs veterans, and know that during the TSDigs one month challenge, TechSoup hosts a series of webinars and interactive events, live Tweet Chats, and highlights content and tools to help nonprofits produce a 90 second video or a 5 picture Flickr slideshow.


I wanted to point out that this year, we're allowing up to 90 second videos. Which is different from years past. This year, we’re very excited to include an “emerging media” submission category for organizations using games, mobile tech, apps, or infographics to tell their stories.


          Buffy Beale: that's a great idea alebez!

          Andy Evans: I hope you will come back with more info as new tools are developed... maybe give us some "homework" to view certain videos too

          Rhiannon Chatnoir: love the idea of storytelling homework ;)  great - would think Second Life would fall under that :)


alebez: If you haven't participated before, don't worry, now's the time to start! Our events and resources can guide you through the process of creating a video or 5 photo slideshow.


TSDigs is a teaching event, and created with beginners in mind.


The Challenge exists to give nonprofits a fun way to learn, apply, and gain the tools they need to go out and produce their own digital story, something they then can use regardless if they win.


TSDigs also serves as an opportunity to grow and connect our community and highlight our donation partners, especially those with digital storytelling related tools and products.


With these storytelling resources we aim to inspire action, inspire promotion, and to inspire community.


This is the timeline for upcoming events. We have a really amazing lineup of expert guests, judges, and partners. Which I'll let Michael speak to a bit.


  • April 2: Digital Storytelling Launch / Submissions OPEN
  • April 4: Webinar: Creating a Culture of Storytelling (register)
  • April 9: Tweet Chat: Storytelling with Data
  • April 11: Webinar: How to Use Your Digital Story
  • April 16: Tweet Chat: Storytelling Around the World
  • April 17: Google+ Hangout: Meet the Judges!
  • April 18: Webinar: Digital Storytelling Tools and Methods
  • April 23: Tweet Chat: Storytelling and Social Sharing
  • April 24: Google+ Hangout: Winners' Circle!
  • April 30: Submissions close at 11:59 p.m. Pacific time
  • May 1 – 15: Community and expert judging
  • May 28: Awards Gala live in San Francisco and streaming online in Second Life and beyond!


          Jen (jenelle.levenque): Are there times listed for the webinars and tweet chats?


bulaklak: Hi! So, I have been very focused on getting the challenge pages ready for public consumption, And they have been quite consuming *me*!


At any rate, as Alebez said, we have a lineup of partners, guests, and events all in the service of sharing the best digital storytelling tips and tools with you as possible. Our first webinar is next week on Thursday at 11am PT. And I am really excited about it. We're featuring guests from Escondido Library and Global Fund for Women


alebez: As well as Lights. Camera. Help


bulaklak: It's always exciting to feature folks from real organizations talking to their experiences there


I think experts are great, and we have plenty of those too, but I really enjoy letting folks share their own stories and showing you how you, too, can do this stuff.


          Andy Evans: Do u have a link to the upcoming webinar next Thursday?


bulaklak: yep, Here is the link: Please do register.


          jlmorin: Wow, fantastic storytelling, Alebez! Let's tweet that. Here's the tweetable "Creating a Culture of Storytelling at Your Non-profit or Library" link: BLAST IT!!


alebez: Awesome sauce.


bulaklak: If you would like any accessibility features such as live captioning, please let us know 72 hours in advance, you can see the whole timeline of events at and links to register for the rest of the webinars will be available soon. Great, thanks Ale!


alebez: No problem. Visit to check out some of the resources available, but also to enter your own digital story! And do watch another quick Vine video to promo the challenge: - come follow the robot and consider participating in some of the exciting happenings planned coming up.


Thanks everyone! This upcoming month should be fun. Stay tuned for more.


          Rhiannon Chatnoir: and last week with the mentors we talked on having a couple of machinima filming workshops here in Second Life, more details to follow on that

          Zinnia Zauber: Super! Thank you guys!

          CarynTopia Silvercloud: Oh, I am very interested in that!


alebez: That would fit in nicely.


          Andy Evans: Very interesting presentation... thanks!

          Rhiannon Chatnoir: message me if you want to help out with that. Any other questions for Ale or bulaklak or on digital storytelling or the challenge?

          Buffy Beale: We'll have the grand celebration/screening night here in Second Life too right?

          Rhiannon Chatnoir: yes, awards night at our virtual drive in!


bulaklak: Yes!


          Rhiannon Chatnoir: I always look forward to at least one person showing up in a space ship ;)

         Jen (jenelle.levenque): Yay Drive-In

          Andy Evans: hahaha


bulaklak: This year we will have a cool event space at PARISOMA in San Francisco and will do the drive in in Second Life


          Buffy Beale: fantastic

          Rhiannon Chatnoir: great and live video stream for us coming from the venue?


alebez: Yes, we will. We're also currently producing our first ever international tweetchat across timezones.


          Rhiannon Chatnoir: always a wondeful event both in the physical venue and here

          CarynTopia Silvercloud: all very interesting


alebez: Trying to string together a network of nonprofits, libraries and charities all over the globe, taking on different timezones to speak to various tools, tips, practices in each of their regions. Should be really fun and informative. Thanks for giving us the time.


          Rhiannon Chatnoir: let's thank Ale and bulaklak for presenting today

          Frans Charming applauds! Thanks Ale and Bulaklak

          Andy Evans: Yay

          Zinnia Zauber: Rah!


Many thanks to Brownrice Internet for hosting the NPSL site.