Each month, Phoenix community members come together to serve and represent the community at various Arizona Storytellers Project events, designed to encourage oral storytelling while also fostering empathy.
The Arizona Storytellers Project, created in 2011, is a nationwide series of live events that helps the community connect with diverse audiences, stated from the Arizona Storytellers Project, curated by the USA TODAY NETWORK. The Project’s award-winning journalists help community members to draw out authentic, personal experiences and hone them into engaging dialogue.
“Megan Finnerty founded the Arizona Storytellers Project while she was a reporter and editor at The Arizona Republic, which is part of the USA TODAY NETWORK,” Arizona Republic Reporter Kaila White said. “She grew that into the Storytellers Project and the Storytellers Brand Studio, both of which operate nationally and are run by the USA TODAY NETWORK.
Since its founding, more than 600 people have taken the stage to share their stories at more than 100 events. The USA TODAY NETWORK launched the program nationally in 2015, coordinating more than 90 nights of live storytelling, according to the Arizona Storytellers Project.
“The empathy that storytelling events creates within everyone involved, has the biggest impact to create positive change,” recent Arizona Storyteller Speaker, Dan Hull, said. “During the live events the events, members of the community can connect with other people through their stories.”
The idea behind the project came from the difficulty of bringing people together, considering that everyone in a community comes from various backgrounds with diverse beliefs and opinions. However, one thing that unites these differences is the public’s appreciation for entertainment and illuminating stories that people can relate to and find common ground, according to the Project’s website.
“We have 20 cities around the U.S. that host nights of live storytelling within the Storytellers Project,” Storytellers Brand Studio Director of Business Development, Michael Heller, said. “Each one of the newsrooms from those cities host and plan their storytelling events and all proceeds from ticket sales go to the cost of supporting the nights.”
In 2015, the project secured its first sponsor for $113,000. Of the $113,000 secured, $75,000 was purely for naming rights, stated in the INMA campaign results.
“We do not pay people to tell their stories,” Heller said. “The Storytellers Project is a newsroom and editorial driven product, so people gain the benefit of sharing their story with a live audience, video of their story on our national website and podcast, perhaps a clip on KJZZ, which is our partner in broadcasting clips from local shows.”
The Arizona Storytellers Project reports the program covers their own expenses. The show has generated more than $15,000 in after-cost revenue from ticket sales alone in 2015, as stated by the International News Media Association (INMA) campaign representatives.
“Everyone has a story, and when people share their stories, listeners feel compelled to invest in their communities both emotionally and economically,” Heller said. “That is how change takes place…when we create a space to share the stories about who we are, where we came from and where we see ourselves going, others can see that too, and that is community; that is what the Storytellers Project endeavors to achieve.”