How One Girl uses Folktale to drive impact through authentic stories
For the Australian feminist non-profit One Girl, using Folktale has not only meant it’s much easier to hear directly from the girls they serve in countries like Sierra Leone, Uganda, and Tonga but that supporters are now able to see the faces and hear the voices of the individuals engaging in the programs they support.
Many organizations start using Folktale to amplify the voices of the individuals they serve, but most soon discover that the platform can help them with so much more. That’s what happened during our partnership with One Girl – an Australian feminist non-profit organization harnessing the power of education to drive change for girls in Sierra Leone, Uganda and Tonga.
When their program Let’s Tok! was launched in September 2020 as a response to the pandemic, it aimed to combat feelings of isolation and disconnect for girls during lockdowns and school closures. It’s now shifted focus to building essential digital skills for young girls in a way that not only supports their education but also builds their self-esteem. It turned out that Folktale could not only help them engage directly with the girls taking part in their program, but also boost their confidence in the process.
“We ask the girls who have been participating in the program what’s something they want to use their voice to tell us about? What have they learned? Last year we did this component via video, just using mobile phones, piece to camera. When I came across Folktale, I just thought this is such a perfect solution”, said Victoria Kahla, International Programs and Partnerships Director at One Girl.
With Folktale, it no longer takes six hours to shoot each 30-second video. Understanding how to film a video of themselves and to use their voice to speak up about issues that are important to them – and to do that on video – is a huge thing for the girls, explained Victoria. “This year with Folktale we've had so many amazing submissions, it's been so much easier for the girls.”
The easy-to-use templates help the staff and the girls overcome the feeling that they don’t know what to say, or how to go about filming it. Folktale supports the process of developing a story, making it easier for contributors to focus precisely on that: the story. The platform figures it out for you, including providing the contributor with recommendations on how long to speak for, how to make it a story, and how to make it flow, explained Victoria. “Education systems are very structured and being asked to do something without a lot of instruction can be quite overwhelming…so it was also kind of overcoming this confidence barrier.” For us at Folktale it’s important to not tell contributors what they should say but to create a framework that enhances their confidence and ability to focus on the story they want to tell.
The platform gives you guidance that creates this very safe, structured environment where you can shoot as many re-takes as you want – you can answer questions over and over until you’re happy with the result, she added. “It's like this reassurance that you're doing it right. The instructions are clear, it's easy to follow, so you don't really have space for that self-doubt.”
Integrating Folktale in this way has also helped One Girl achieve one of its key outcomes – for the girls to use their own voice – and to develop their own advocacy campaigns by collectively calling for change using features such as the Folktale Supercut. It also supports One Girl’s other two strategic goals of ensuring quality education for girls both in and out of the classroom and changing ideas and norms in society that hold them back. “So for us, it helps us meet one of our big three goals,” said Victoria.
The Let’s Tok! program is already having a big impact on girls’ digital literacy:
Increase from 50% to 100% of girls having never used the internet or smartphone before to confidently researching topics, sending voice notes with their opinions, watching videos of inspiring women and leading online groups as mentors.
100% of girls said they were really confident using the internet and they use it all the time, compared to only 13% at the start.
Expanding Folktale to M&E
More recently, One Girl has also started using the platform to support monitoring and evaluation efforts. The organization has designed a way to make this more accessible, creating the character Aunty MEARL – which stands for monitoring, evaluation, accountability, research, and learning – who drives the Folktale bus, explained Victoria.
“We’re a young team, and a lot of our staff have not worked in development before. This world of monitoring and evaluation is really complex, and it doesn’t have to be,” she said. “You can use Folktale for all of these different components of MEARL.”
Organizations often start out using the platform for one specific purpose – or pathway as we call it here at Folktale – but then begin to see the value of incorporating it into other parts of their work. That’s precisely what happened at One Girl.
While the NGO started out using Folktale to primarily hear from girls in their programs, they now also use it to get insights around how new partnerships and programs are going, explained Victoria. Through the Folktale videos, they can get answers to questions such as: How’s the program going? How’s it been so far to work together?
Mele Fonua Holani, Program Coordinator at Talitha Project – a One Girl’s partner in Tonga – started using Folktale in July last year. As part of the Let’s Tok! program, she submits a monthly Folktale video explaining what has worked well, what didn’t, and how they can improve. Over the course of each month, she records five separate clips using a template, which also instructs her to take a few photos. The videos and photos are then automatically edited into a final cut video. “So not only is it easier to put out and to give information for the purpose of reporting, but you also get more for less. You get more qualitative data in less time than you would have to do a report,” she said.
Folktale is not only used by the program managers implementing the program, but also by the participants. At the end of the eight-week program, each girl is asked to submit a Folktale video detailing her experience and what she’s learned. While collecting stories isn’t something new to Talitha Project – they used to interview a selection of girls after each program – “Folktale is more structured and we know that data goes straight from the platform into a database that you can get information from really quickly,” said Mele.
We no longer have to rent a car and drive to the other side of the island to interview a small selection of the girls, she explained. “We can just put that into a Folktale template and send it to her, and then she can do her Folktale and give it back…there are so many new ways of getting more stories from participants in a way that’s [more] representative of the program,” said Mele.
One Girl also uses the platform with their field officers in Sierra Leone as part of their monthly reporting. “Field officers can do a little video when they're out at a school visiting with the girls and when they report around the outcomes that they’re seeing,” said Victoria.
And it’s not just about sharing these videos with leadership, but more about shared learning across the organisation and using them as a way for field officers to learn from each other. “We want these videos to be owned and understood first and foremost by the people doing the work. So yes, it's important for the leadership team and for the partners, but we want the power of the voices to be with the people who are doing the work,” said Victoria.
Putting a face to the numbers
As most NGOs, One Girl frequently produces in-depth reports for their supporters, which traditionally are expected to be heavier on jargon and data than on first-person stories of impact. In line with the growing imperative to decolonise aid, funders and philanthropists are increasingly looking to hear from the communities they support to better understand the impact of their investment in real terms – and more importantly, to have their priorities for future investment guided by local voices and needs.
One Girl and their funding partners have always challenged the status quo of reporting, and Folktale adds a whole new way of sharing impact. The platform can help bridge the gap between what has traditionally been expected and what locally-led development looks like in practice. “We wanted to make sure that they [the funding partners] have a really good connection with the program, and these videos are just the most perfect way to do that,” said Victoria.
“Imagine if you've never been to Sierra Leone but you're funding this program and you're reading about these outcomes. And then you see a video of one of the girls or the field officers, and all of a sudden, you're there with them…you can experience what they're experiencing.”
Through their use of the platform, they are also hoping to advance the idea of multimedia evaluation, which in turn can make them more accountable to the communities they serve. “Because not only are those big reports not accessible to other people, they are certainly not accessible to the communities that we work with.”
One of the biggest values is that the stories are not framed or limited by colleagues in headquarters or others removed from their reality – the individuals in the field submitting their videos via Folktale have control over the narrative, how they frame it, and the story they share.
For One Girl, the value of the partnership with Folktale goes beyond the use of the platform but is also found in Folktale and One Girl’s shared commitment to always learning by prioritizing local voices and amplifying our impact by working in collaboration. One Girl is always looking to invite others to be part of changing the world for girls – you can join them at onegirl.org.au to hear more about Let’s Tok! and One Girl’s programs.