How to Engage Youth in Your Community Through Digital Storytelling

How to Engage Youth in Your Community Through Digital Storytelling
Photo by Devin Avery / Unsplash

People of all ages like to hear a good story. How that story is told may vary depending on your age.

If you’re looking to build a sense of community, it might be a challenge to engage younger people—unless you approach it from their point of view. Children of the digital age may not want to sit through an adult’s explanation of community involvement. That’s why digital storytelling for youth can be a powerful tool for communities.

Storytelling is as old as humans. According to The New York Times, some researchers date the origins of language back more than 20 million years, while writing surfaced around 3200 B.C. How we tell stories has changed, from elaborate cave paintings to TikTok videos, “but our innate drive to recount narratives about who we are, where we come from and what we mean to each other remains an essential trait of being human.

The difference is in how we convey those stories. While our grandparents may have made notes on the calendar to remember the weather over the harvest of 1938, and our parents might have kept a diary of our progress as we grew up, our children tell their stories in another way—with technology.

Luckily, there are platforms that engage young people, and communities can harness technology to inspire younger generations.

Reaching Youth Where They Are

It’s not a surprise that community building for young people could be powered by technology. 

Here are some stats to consider from the ​​international group Organiation for Economic Co-operation and Development:

  • Children have their first experience with digital technologies before the age of two, often before they can walk or talk.
  • By 2018, the proportion of 15-year-olds in OECD countries with home Internet access increased to over 95%, and those 15-year-olds spent up to 27 hours per week on the Internet. There’s no doubt that number increased in the last five years. 

Snapchat is one of the most popular social media platforms for kids and teens, with almost half of kids aged 7 to 17 having used it in the past month. 

Add to that the rise in User Generated Content, which is second nature to many young people. UGC is content such as text, videos, images, reviews and more that is created by people, rather than brands. The rise of social media platforms and online communities has driven the shift to user generated content, which in turn draws young people. It’s a form of digital storytelling, which can include images, text, recorded audio narration, video clips and music.

So why not meet kids where they’re most comfortable? Technology is how they tell their stories.  

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Building a Stronger Community Together

There’s no doubt that communities benefit by a broad range of engagement. 

The United States Agency for International Development sees young people as a vital stakeholder group for inclusive development, comparable to including the experiences of women, people with disabilities, the LGBTQ2SIA+ community, and those suffering from extreme poverty—in other words, those who have historically been excluded from community engagement. 

USAID defines youth engagement as:

“The active, empowered, and intentional partnership with youth as stakeholders, problem solvers, and change agents in their communities.” 

Even a number of years ago, USAID found that technology is a great benefit to youth engagement:

  • to organize activities or events
  • to coordinate virtual events like planning or brainstorming
  • to build a network
  • to gather input and feedback 

Finally, there’s digital storytelling as a means for community involvement.

The Power of Digital Storytelling

There are a few studies that have been conducted that show the benefits of digital storytelling to engage youth.

#1 Digital stories as a tool for health promotion and youth engagement

woman walking on pathway during daytime
Photo by Emma Simpson / Unsplash

A research team of eight youth aged 13–25, along with youth participants and  Elders from several First Nations communities on Vancouver Island created a forum for intergenerational knowledge sharing through the creation and sharing of digital stories. 

In the end, the youth who participated in the study reported increased pride in community as well as new or enhanced relationships with Elders. Digital storytelling was a powerful tool in engaging youth from communities that have strong oral history traditions.

#2 Sharing Indigenous knowledge through intergenerational digital storytelling

This is a similar study in which a community with a powerful oral history engaged its youth with digital storytelling. In this example, digital stories were combined with traditional practices. Students learned how to create a digital story, which gave them the opportunity to explore local knowledge. It also gave them skills to share their understanding with their community and family. 

Some students began to create their own stories outside of school, “finding it a fun way to explore their communities” and an opportunity to “demonstrate their knowledge using more than a text-based method.”

Case Studies: How Communities are Using Digital Storytelling to Engage Youth

three people sitting in front of table laughing together
Photo by Brooke Cagle / Unsplash

Communities need to get creative to engage youth through digital storytelling. Using a tool like memoryKPR can help, since it’s second nature for youth to use tools like smartphones or social media platforms for sharing. 

Using memoryKPR allows you to capture the whole story of a place, community or business. You don’t need an account with a social media platform, but you can still connect to social media when you want it. 

Communities can boost engagement with memoryKPR because it allows you to:

  • use QR codes to easily share and gather user-generated content 
  • import content from social media and cloud platforms
  • integrate your stories into your own website or app 
  • add hashtagged social media moments directly into your story
  • white label your story to add your own logo

It’s easier to understand with a few examples.

#1 Dakota Dunes Resort

Exterior picture of the Dakota Dunes Resort in the evening
Source: Dakota Dunes Resort

More than a resort, Dakota Dunes is a tribute to its Indigenous heritage, and uses technology to enhance the experience of those who visit.

Using memoryKPR, Dakota Dunes tells the story of the area, including the culture, history and language. The story is shared through QR codes placed in every room, and visitors can even listen to traditional languages. There’s also the ability for guests to add their own story to the Dakota Dunes story.  

A fun activity involves a digital scavenger hunt that also teaches the culture and history of Whitecap Dakota First Nation. Guests are encouraged to take a picture on their phone of the items on the scavenger hunt in exchange for a small prize. If they create a TikTok video of the pictures, they’re entered in a draw for a larger prize. It’s all found with the hashtag #DakotaDunesResort. 

#2 Saskatchewan Roughriders

picture of the Saskatchewan Roughriders stadium in Regina
Source: Saskatchewan Roughriders

In an effort to attract fans of all ages, the Saskatchewan Roughriders and the CGL’s Grey Cup used memoryKPR to gather fan photos. Any kind of hashtagged content or a direct share on social media was gathered in one spot. 

The memoryKPR platform found direct shares—rather than just asking people to share on their own social media—and this contributed to a big boost in content. In fact, the increase in shares for some stories were as much as 10 times more. 

Get Started with Digital Storytelling: Tools and Tips for Success

Storytelling is a powerful tool to boost community engagement, and technology can allow you to expand that engagement to young people. Digital storytelling has the power to engage younger generations in community life, whether that’s through telling the story of a historical site, encouraging social media participation on a platform that’s popular to youth, or sharing the funny background of a local hidden gem.  

If you’re looking to engage youth in your community, have you considered the power of digital storytelling? A tool like memoryKPR will allow you to expand your reach to younger generations who are comfortable with QR codes and hashtags, and excited to share their user-generated content.  

If you need help, reach out to memoryKPR. We can help you build your story engagement strategy to get started on a digital storytelling journey and better engage the youth in your community. 

Ready to see how easy (and powerful) it can be? Explore memoryKPR today. Your stories—and your community—deserve a vibrant future.

Transform Your Community's Digital Presence with memoryKPR

Schedule your free demo today and take the first step towards a more connected community.

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