RADIUS Fellow Brielle Morgan is one of the producers of an ambitious nation-wide story collecting initiative to engage communities in deep listening.
Brielle Morgan, a journalist and graduate of Simon Fraser University and Carleton University, has reported stories from around the world, spanning from Canada’s far North to East Africa. After working for more “traditional” media outlets for a few years, she felt a growing misalignment between the work she was doing and the work she wanted to pursue.
Brielle joined the RADIUS Fellowship program during its inaugural year with hopes of meeting a community of like-minded individuals in addition to sourcing support for her story collecting initiative, The Grandmother Project. Inspired and touched by the stories that poured out of her grandmother after just a few thought-provoking questions, Brielle worked with radio producer Angela Johnston, to launch the project. Together they aimed to encourage young people to engage more frequently in sharing thoughtful conversations with their grandmothers.
The Grandmother Project evolved into Storywise, an audio recording project that invites people to sit down one-on-one to listen to each other, to swap stories in a designated space, and to honour each other’s experiences in a memorable way. Participants – whether friends, family or curious strangers – receive keepsake recordings of their conversation. With permission, some talks are edited into short stories to share with the broader community.
At the Al Etmanski’s book launch event, attended by the RADIUS Fellows, Brielle was introduced to Erin Millar, Editor-and-Chief and CEO of Discourse Media, an independent journalism company dedicated to in-depth reporting on complex issues facing Canada and the world. The two saw alignment in the journalistic work they each wanted to pursue, and a few months later Brielle joined Discourse as Reporter and Producer. Part of Brielle’s new role was take what she learned from her experience with Storywise and apply to Discourse’s community engagement strategy.
This past March, Storywise organized an event series called The Big Listen, inviting individuals to bring a friend or family member and honour each other by asking questions about a meaningful experience. In partnership with the Vancouver Public Library, they recorded conversations in the newly refurbished Inspiration Lab at the Central Public Library.
Storywise co-founders Brielle Morgan (left) and Angela Johnston (centre) with Vancouver Public Library Inspiration Lab staff members Simon, Mark and Sam
In the first weekend alone, twenty-two people took part in sharing their stories with a loved one. Themes such as living with mental health, immigration struggles, and changing shapes of families in modern society emerged from the conversations.
A specific story that stood out to Brielle was a conversation between a five-year old boy and his parents (names withheld as per the family’s request). The boy described the people who lived in this uniquely imaginative solar system that lives in his mind. Fascinated by the details in the preschooler’s story, the parents continued to ask questions, exploring his world. Here is a short clip from that conversation:
Taking what she has learned from Storywise, Brielle has applied her learnings to a new project to engage communities across the country in deep listening and story sharing.
Starting this year, Brielle and the Discourse Media team will be working with the newly created non-profit Challenge for Change (C4C) to vision, design and execute a story collection project inspired, in part, by Storywise. C4C has launched with the support of Inspirit Foundation, the MacMillan Family Foundation and the National Film Board, adding capacity for large-scale events, short film and animation adaptations of audio stories, digital archiving, and collaborations with schools.
The RADIUS Fellowship program granted Brielle the opportunities to pitch, receive feedback, fine-tune, and walk away with a stronger and more impactful vision of her project. From what she terms her “tumbleweed of connections,” she was exposed to a journalism venture that aligned with her values, came across an opportunity to envision a nationwide story collection project and “feels more optimistic and excited” about the future of journalism in Canada.
Brielle Morgan with Storywise participant Elaine Benson
If you would like to learn more about The Big Listen and the upcoming Challenge for Change project, be in touch with firstname.lastname@example.org.
Sonam Swarup joined Discourse Media as a Marketing Coordinator and was one of the 22 RADIUS Fellows in Radical Doing in our second cohort. For more information on the RADIUS Fellowship in Radical Doing, click here.