Changing high school culture through storytelling: StoryCorps®

An SIR Case Study | Back to OUR WORK


SIR Client: StoryCorps

Challenge: StoryCorps’ mission is to preserve and share humanity’s stories, building connections between people and creating a more just and compassionate world. You may know it from its weekly airings on NPR’s “Morning Edition.” The national nonprofit came to SIR in 2015 with a challenge and an opportunity. Its new high school curriculum, StoryCorpsU, wasn’t gaining much market traction. Unsure of the curriculum’s appeal to administrators and educators and whether to position it as simply a language arts program or something more, its team sought answers from SIR.

Action: SIR conducted one-on-one interviews at schools that were piloting the program, as well as with other administrators, educators, and public broadcasting partners across the country. We learned that StoryCorps was universally loved and appreciated. Yet more important, we discovered that the benefits of StoryCorpsU went far beyond students — to changing the actual culture at high schools. We found that, when 9th- and 10th-graders exchange stories, they get to know each other better. They develop trust, respect, and empathy. This carries over through their high school careers and enriches the culture of the school. Based on these insights, SIR helped StoryCorpsU develop a bigger brand position and a broader approach to telling its own story.

Results: This new broader positioning of StoryCorpsU ­— as a multidisciplinary academic program that can change the culture of a high school — is helping the program continue to be piloted successfully in schools across the U.S. With additional financial support from key sponsors and partners, StoryCorps plans to expand the effort in 2017 and beyond.

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