With support from the James Irvine Foundation's Exploring Engagement Fund, BAVC Media is working with local social service agencies to provide a series of digital storytelling workshops: SF Stories: A Shared Experience. Workshop participants learn digital storytelling from start to finish, and completing three-minute digital stories for exhibition on public access television, the Web and in non-traditional exhibition spaces, including at community events and at the social service agencies. Read more about SF Stories and BAVC Media's other digital storytelling initiatives here.

In January 2014, BAVC Media's Independent Media department launched SF Stories: A Shared Experience with our first partner organization Recovery Survival Network and the San Francisco Sheriff's Department (SFSD). The workshop was offered inside the San Bruno County Jail and was the first opportunity for BAVC Media to work with participants who were currently incarcerated. We were excited and looked forward to bringing this unique opportunity to people who were in the process of rehabilitating their lives.

During the planning process with the SFSD we quickly became aware that this wasn't going to be a typical workshop. In addition to participants having no previous media-making experience, we were going into a jail and we had to adapt to the rules and regulations around working on the inside.  

This meant learning about jail "politics."  Politics for inmates refers to how people segregate themselves either by race or gang affiliation.  We had to make sure that our workshop had the right combination of participants so that there would not be any problems.  

Given these considerations, I was worried that it might be a tough sell to get everyone to work together. A successful workshop would depend on the buy-in from the participants so it was important to build an environment of collaboration, support and respect.  But after the first writing exercise, I knew that the participants were totally in to it and were ready to open up. 

Ronald Horne was the first volunteer in the class to share his personal journey about how an unexpected encounter with his granddaughter inspired him to move on from his past:

After four weeks, everyone involved was lucky enough to witness some extremely powerful and moving stories. Not only did they have the opportunity to learn the process and tools of digital storytelling and media production but in sharing their experiences and finding their own voice, they also found a voice for their communities.

The next round of workshops will be this Spring, with the Homeless Prenatal Program in San Francisco's Mission District, and the Veterans Affairs Psychosocial Rehabilitation and Recovery Program. Look out for more stories from SF Stories.