We’re Going to the 2014 Clinton Global Initiative University Conference. Here’s Our Commitment to Action
Two student members of the United Story team (Emily + De) will be joining students and leaders from across the world in April for the 2014 Clinton Global Initiative University meeting, hosted at the University of Arizona.
For their participation in the conference, Emily and De have developed a strategic plan and commitment for United Story for the 2014 year. It entails the following:
United Story (U/S) uses story-based events, workshops, and projects to address social topics that interest communities. After successfully activating students to engage subjects of identity, sexuality, and education via its monthly United Story Nights at the Brown School of Social Work of Washington University in St. Louis this past year, the United Story team commits to expanding the U/S Night platform to the larger St. Louis, MO, metropolitan area. Local programs will serve to connect city residents around pressing subjects and help them develop collaborative ideas that resolve social conflicts in the city.
The civic challenges that many American cities face share a deeply rooted history of residential, cultural, and social division. The city of St. Louis, MO, exemplifies this history. Known for its “Delmar Divide” that splits the city north and south, St. Louis reigns as one of America’s most segregated metropolitan areas. Class, race, and educational differences foster environments where violence, inequality, and discrimination persist. Schools within poor communities in the city lose accreditation while the hallways of their counterparts become filled with bullying and self-segregation. Members of poor and minority neighborhoods exist in isolation from the life experiences, privileges, and resources afforded to the non-poor. Such groups additionally lack access from quality food, jobs, healthcare, social services, and schools afforded to those south of the Divide.
The United Story team commits to fostering public engagement with critical issues sparked by social division. Its goal is to host four public United Story Nights in St. Louis throughout the 2014 year and fund four audience-driven ideas that address targeted issues of justice, hunger, education, and poverty in the city. To provide seed funding to the ideas, the team will use revenues generated from the ticketed admissions to the events.
As the United Story Nights transition to reach the greater St. Louis community, the occurrence will shift from a monthly series to quarterly events (4 times a year). Activities that will drive the execution of this goal include:
partnering with local community organizations that already engage the targeted issues,
developing a planning committee to help organize each event
nurturing the community partners and support network that team leaders have already fostered in order to actualize and sustain ideas generated during the events.
Our team will begin actualizing this goal with the launch of the January United Story: Justice night that shares the stories of 10 individuals whose lives have been affected by incarceration. This event will be in partnership with Civic Engagement Scholars of the Gephardt Institute for Public Service and social service organization, Heart to Heart. With prospective support from Sodexo Foundation, a second event will be hosted in April to address youth hunger during the 2014 Global Youth Service Day. Two following events in the second half of the year will address education (August) and poverty.
Expanding Our Reach
This commitment differs from previous United Story efforts because of the location, audiences, frequency, revenue generating model, and intended outcomes that it inhabits. In the past, United Story has operated largely in a university setting, reaching mainly students during its monthly United Story Nights. This audience population will expand and diversify in the context of the larger community. In addition, whereas campus-based events allow audience members to create collaborative works of art in response to stories shared, the city-based events will allow audience members to additionally vote on ideas that they deem a solution to the night’s theme. With this addition, these events will include an admission, and ticket revenues will serve as crowdfunding to the idea that audience members select. This format will also foster more organizational partnerships for the initiative, as idea creators will be paired with a local non-profit mentors who will help them actualize their ideas.
Measuring Our Impact
Evaluation metrics will be integrated into the new initiative to assess its success and scalability. Measurements will be taken during and after the United Story Nights. During the events, we will track the number of stories submitted and shared, and the growth and demographics of the audience. Our hopes are that the amount of attendees at each event will increase, starting from fifty at the first event, and that they will represent different experiences in association with the event topic. We will also count the number of ideas generated. After the event, a selected idea will be chosen to be actualized with the support of a partnering non-profit. Success will be measured by the number of local leaders, organizations, and practitioners who contribute knowledge, resources, and support to the initiative, and the ability of United Story projects to sustain within the St. Louis community.