I-LEAD(ers) are Using Digital Storytelling to Give a Voice to Their Communities

April 11, 2018
A desk showing a digital camera, laptop, notepad, and storytelling book

The Administration for Native Americans began funding cooperative agreements through the Native Youth Initiative for Leadership, Empowerment, and Development (I-LEAD) funding opportunity in 2016. These grants support local community projects that foster Native youth resiliency and empower Native youth across four broad domains: Native youth leading, connecting, learning, and working.

The five inaugural awardees, Alaska Native Heritage Center, Choctaw Nation, Intersections, Inc.; Native Prevention, Research, Intervention, Development, Education (PRIDE); and Salish School of Spokane; participate in a cooperative agreement cohort. For their project evaluations, the cohort decided to use a photovoice framework, which is built on three main principles:

  • Assist those who are often unheard to find and assert their voice,
  • Develop critical consciousness about issues in their community, and
  • Through sharing stories with key decision makers, become the catalyst that sparks community change.

The goal of the evaluation is to weave together traditional aspects of storytelling and modern aspects of social media technology to share stories of Native youth with their own voices, through their own lenses. The youth were active members in the evaluation of their projects and took ownership over filming, writing commentary, editing, and producing their stories in digital formats.

Because of these cooperative agreements, the projects were given equal decision-making power in deciding annual themes for their videos. The theme for the end of the first year was “Getting to Know Our Hopes and Dreams.” The cohort felt this theme accurately portrayed the reality of where youth are at but framed in a way that promoted resiliency and a hope for the future. You can find some of the first year videos on Youtube for:

Each year’s the theme will evolve revealing another layer of understanding our communities’ youth. Overall, the cohort is excited to learn about the role that cultural identity development plays in youth leadership, empowerment, and development journeys.