As the bedrock of dignified storytelling, consent from contributors must be freely given, fully informed, and obtained prior to any story gathering. Informed consent is more than just a formality or filling in forms; it is an essential and core ethic of dignified storytelling. Images and stories truly belong to whoever is represented in them, and contributors have the right to decide on the terms of their story sharing and usage.
Time must be allotted for ongoing dialogue with potential contributors that allows them to consider and meaningfully contribute to the story-gathering request. It is imperative that all involved stakeholders clearly understand the implications of their agreement to have their story, whether visual or written, collected, documented, and shared in line with any privacy or confidentiality wishes.
Consent should be sought for specific purposes and should never be forced. The process of obtaining consent must be tailored depending on whether the story involves a group or individual; minor or adult; and the level of sensitivity of the situation. Steps to address the unequal power dynamic present in these conversations can be taken by thoughtfully choosing who has the conversation and where it takes place as contributors need to feel comfortable raising any concerns or questions.
Consent is not forever, and contributors need be aware of the duration of their consent and to understand their right and the process to withdraw consent at any time.