How a nonprofit is empowering unheard girls with digital storytelling


For millions of underrepresented youths at risk of violence, old methods of communication are not getting their messages across. Footage Foundation is a nonprofit social enterprise that proposes a new way to empower youth – mobile digital storytelling.

Dr. Kristen Ali Eglinton, executive director of Footage, believes that for lasting social transformation, we need to empower people through their voices. Her company designs sustainable social change programmes that use local technology and expressive multimedia tools (such as mobile digital storytelling) to bring the underrepresented voices and experiences of young people into the conversations on the world’s most challenging issues, with a focus on girls and young women. Salt spoke to Dr Eglinton to find out more.

What are the most important issues you are looking to tackle this year?

We will continue to use our pioneering methods and technologies created through user-centered design workshops, along with the young people we work with, to empower them and allow them to share their own stories. This allows them to advocate for themselves, their peers, and their local and global communities.

Footage is incredibly unique in that we focus on substantive global issues such as gender-based violence, unemployment amongst youth, and gender equality. We know we can’t achieve lasting  social change without inviting all youth – all unheard young people – to the discussion.

The overarching issue we’re consistently focused on is honing our methods and approaches. We’re adapting the social entrepreneurship initiatives, technologies, and platforms we create so that we continue to target major global issues through heightened participation, voice, and engagement.

What’s going to get the most attention?

For us, we’re going deeper into the ways in which compassionate action can act as a mechanism for change. Compassion for us includes: gaining new understandings of your experiences, understanding yourself with greater clarity, feeling a greater sense of responsibility toward your own wellbeing and the wellbeing of others, and taking action to help both yourself and others.

After sharing her voice in our Girl-talk-Girl program, one woman said: “If I was brave enough to tell my story, maybe someone else out there will say ‘Oh wait – maybe I’m not the only one.’”

So we’ll continue to explore how storytelling and voice not only provide a sense of closure and healing from traumatic events, but also decrease feelings of shame whilst increasing feelings of self-worth. Sharing our stories can help us become advocates – we can feel empowered as our personal experience becomes a catalyst for increased awareness and healing in others.

What’s the future for Footage Foundation? Where are you headed?

This year we’re on our second round of funding from the U.S. Department of State for our Girl-talk-Girl Program. This highly successful program focuses on illuminating the voices of young women in New York City and St. Petersburg, Russia, and their experiences with gender-based violence by creating an international platform for dialogue (see the trailer to the micro-documentary on this project here.)

Right now we are piloting a scale-up model which is supporting young women in becoming mobile digital storytelling leaders who themselves expand the initiative and spark further dialogue. What’s more, we plan to leverage our key learnings from Girl-talk-Girl and launch a global initiative called ‘HereHer’, focusing on empowerment, education, and equality for girls and young women.

This grassroots digital storytelling initiative is based on social entrepreneurial principles and focuses on putting young women at the heart of change. It offers employment and training opportunities – the young women themselves become empowered leaders though this movement. Then they can create momentum that leads to impact on a broader scale.

What would be most helpful to your organisation?

We are passionately seeking sponsorship from corporations, social enterprises, and other nonprofits that are inspired by our mission, and already deeply invested in community outreach around the globe. We know that our methods are unique and offer measurable impact, which will help other organisations reach their goals.

We want changemakers to partner with us. We want their help in elevating the voices of young women and girls through education and advocacy, in supporting us as we scale leadership development initiatives which ultimately create employment opportunities at this critical moment in history. We want them working with us so that together we can demonstrate that voice, participation, empathy and compassionate action are – as we would argue – the missing pieces to sustainable social change.

Footage Foundation can be found at