Place, people, and the author’s voice: Three key ingredients for storytelling

June 09, 2016 | Blog-Admin1 | Change Stories, Let's Talk Visual, SDC Experiences |


Rating: 4.7 out of 5

NadiaSoyolmaa, a great storyteller herself, supported three colleagues from the SDC Cooperation Office in Mongolia to create their very first story. These three short stories demonstrate important key ingredients of making stories: People, place and the author’s voice.

Nadia von Holzen, SDC


Soyolmaa joined the digital storytelling initiative in the very beginning of 2015 (see how we produced our stories here). She made several stories herself (see two of her stories here and here). Now she has supported three colleagues from the SDC Cooperation Office in Mongolia to create their very first stories. These three short stories demonstrate key ingredients of making stories: place, people, and the author’s voice.


A story does not happen in a void. A story needs a place where it is ‘taking place’, where something is happening. In Enkhjargal’s story, An Old Song, the place plays a crucial role. Her story evolves around one key moment that is strongly linked to this special place – rural Mongolia. It is a moment of deep revelation and insight, in which Enkhjargal, a woman who grew up in the city, reveals how she came to understand cultural diversity as a key element toward sustainable development.

We have to evoke a sense of place where the story is unfolding.
Darcy Alexandra, PhD, Inquiry Media

I always find it hard to explain ‘Education for Sustainable Development’ or ‘Sustainable Development’ in few sentences. I think sustainable development is about caring what is happening around us. So, maybe, by understanding where they belong and who they are, people feel more responsible for the local area and act in a more sustainable way. My story can be an example of it. This story is my personal story that happened in 1996. For me, it was really a turning point in my view of life and a trigger that made me understand who I am and where I belong.
Enkhjargal, SDC Mongolia

The author’s voice

I was immediately touched when I watched the story about the herder woman, Dulmaa. The storyteller, Ts. Enkh-Amgalan, recounts the story of Dulmaa’s struggle to maintain her family as a single mother after the death of her husband. From her unique position, the storyteller makes connections between her experiences and those of Dulmaa. She tells us, “listening to Dulmaa made me think of my own mother who raised four of us on her own.” The author gives us a vivid sense of the value of Dulmaa’s example by concluding, “I take great inspiration from women like Dulmaa. I think they are humbly maintaining the integrity of the nomadic way of livelihood among Mongolian herders.” …

A good story is one you can picture, is one you can feel.
Mark Schenk

For my work, I travel a lot and meet herder men and women. Oftentimes, I encounter and listen to many interesting and inspiring stories told by the herders themselves. The story about B. Dulmaa, a herder woman from a remote village in western Mongolia is one of them. After the death of her husband, Dulmaa confidently and skilfully maintained the integrity of her family livelihood, her 5 children. During the difficult wintering period this year, she made it without losing a single animal while many of her neighbours lost half their livestock.  She was so humble and yet so strong and determined to run her business successfully for the sake of her children. 

Dulma is a member of the Pasture User Group. The Green Gold Project is helping to establish the rangeland use agreement with the local authority. The main purpose of the rangeland use agreement is to protect traditional user rights of nomadic herder families for their rangelands. 

Ts. Enkh-Amgalan, SDC Mongolia


Stories need people, as well as dialogue. In Learning by Doing, Burenbayasakh is the main protagonist. She is a veterinarian who takes what she learns in training and applies it in the field to strengthen her learning through practice. Burenbayasakh works with the Animal Health Department in the Gobi-Altai province. The storyteller, Zolzaya tells Burenbayasakh’s story as an example of inspiring practice. She writes,

The Animal Health Project has conducted lots of trainings for medical doctors and veterinarians. Sometimes, it is difficult to measure what trainees apply from the learning. It has been interesting to meet with trainees several years later as they have been using their skills in the field. In 2014, Burenbayasakh attended the two weeks training for medical doctors and veterinarians for collaborative disease control to protect human and animal health. It was so nice to see that Burenbayasakh used her newly gained skills and kept close collaboration with medical doctors long after the training.
Zolzaya, SDC Mongolia

Resources on (digital) storytelling

Anecdote provides fabulous resources and an inspiring blog for storytelling in work-related contexts.

See also the fabulous platform Transformative Storytelling for Social Change.
An online handbook, a forum for conceptual reflections, practical experiences, and methodological guidance on transformative creative and visual storytelling methods.


Comments to“Place, people, and the author’s voice: Three key ingredients for storytelling”

  1. If I may contribute to the list of resources, I would like to point to the Swiss Red Cross web based tutorial on how to use a camera and tell a story. The page has been developed especially for development workers:


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