Respecting the inherent dignity and full humanity of contributors is at the heart of dignified storytelling. Contributors should be considered and treated as equal partners and co-creators throughout the storytelling process with the goal of elevating their voices and perspectives. They are the experts in their own stories.
Prioritising the active involvement of contributors means encouraging their participation at all stages of the process – from story planning to development to publication. Taking the time to build relationships and work with contributors acknowledges that each individual is a whole person with agency in their story. Getting to know their story is part of showing the respect and care that each person deserves; it can also help content gatherers to better understand the context and people involved, resulting in more effective, impactful – and perhaps surprising – stories.
To move away from predictable narratives requires an openness to hearing new and different stories. Building some flexibility into content gathering plans can leave room for listening more deeply and openly to contributors’ wishes and the stories they tell.
If the content gatherer is coming from outside the community or country, working with contributors through community-based partners and local creatives is one way to build longer term relationships with potentially smoother communication through a common language and cultural background. All partners and potential contributors need to feel comfortable challenging story ideas or content-gathering practices that may be too risky for contributors or are potentially relationship-damaging.
To realise this active involvement of contributors requires that storytellers work closely with contributors a step at a time – actively and openly listening, providing technical advice, and ensuring that safety measures, including social and emotional support, are in place.