CALLING NORTHSIDE CREATIVES
JOIN INVEST STL in a DESIGN RESIDENCY
CO-CREATING a NEIGHBORHOOD STORYTELLING PRACTICE
Invest STL is seeking residents of neighborhoods within North St. Louis City to partner in co-creating a neighborhood storytelling practice.
Specifically, we seek to recruit narrative artists, orators, multimedia artists, producers, and those who have made their own practices/rituals around keeping and sharing the stories of their communities.
Explore our vision for the Neighborhood Storytelling Practice + the Design Residency Fellowship opportunity through the topics listed below.
Invest STL facilitates investment in the power of people and their neighborhoods to create communities of justice and opportunity in places that continue to endure the legacy of systemic anti-Black racism. We seek to do this by generating trust-based, community-driven, place-based investments; investing in the regional community and economic development system; influencing policies and decision-making that advance equitable development; and reframing prevailing narratives in our region about predominantly Black neighborhoods and the people, power, challenges and dreams that they hold. Catch a glimpse of who we are and how we work here.
The Neighborhood Storytelling Practice Design Residency Fellows will be guided by the Invest STL Narrative + Communications Partner to form a collaborative team for a period of 7 months to develop a framework for the practice – dreaming, designing, and building a process for implementing a resident-powered neighborhood storytelling practice.
Selected fellows will serve as independent consultants, not employees of Invest STL. For the estimated 16 hours per month requested over the 7 month co-design process, fellows will receive consultancy compensation of $12,000 total.
What is a Neighborhood Storytelling Practice?
The Neighborhood Storytelling Practice is a resident-led storytelling practice that will aim to support everyday people in reflecting and daring to tell a more complete and nuanced accounting of their own experience within their predominantly and historically Black St. Louis neighborhood(s).
For generations, St. Louis has been constrained by the past and our identity is tied to and still influenced today by the reverberations of systemic anti-Black racism through our history, policies, and practices that brought on white-flight and the interstate highway system of the 1950’s, red-lining, the Delmar Divide, and a consistent drum beat of stories generated and circulated by the mainstream media chronicling the crime and blight north of that dividing line. As a region, St. Louis has a singular storyline for Black neighborhoods that is entrenched in misfortune and misdeeds from lead to finish, with limited recognition or curiosity for the beauty, genius, or power that is nurtured and persists within these communities. Our regional spatial view of Black neighborhoods is a monolithic block unworthy of closer view or distinguishing its parts for the 70 plus unique communities as they truly exist. This clipped and flattened shared misbelief ultimately holds regional healing and transformation at bay, leaving Black neighborhoods with an outsized shouldering of the region’s inertia.
We can no longer rely on traditional media outlets and a top-down approach that only enlists professionals, organizations, and institutions to tell the stories of our neighborhoods with the complexity and care they are owed. The path to weaving a tapestry of stories as rich as our realities demands an approach that enlists greater participation in our collective storytelling. Cultivating a neighborhood storytelling practice at scale will support our collective ability to replace the current prevailing narratives in our region of predominantly Black neighborhoods with narratives that inspire pride, engagement, personal agency, collaboration, community accountability, and public will. Nurturing a movement of residents growing in their own storytelling powers can elevate broader and deeper narratives that honor place shaping and place keeping from within our neighborhoods.
The work of re-framing our regional narrative is complex and takes many voices to resonate authentically. Invest STL has the vision, passion, experience, and convening power to welcome those many voices to the table in a rich and inviting way. Our practice of stepping back to listen, watch, learn, and yield is at the heart of our approach to working with and activating community members to participate and embrace their power as creators, directors and producers of their own stories and their own neighborhoods. For communities and individuals we have had the privilege of collaborating with, we are regarded as a yielding and sincere collaborator that actively and consistently demonstrates supporting our collaborators in confronting and wielding their own leadership, power, influence, and brilliance. While we have professional training and experience in story gathering and telling, we understand that experience is but a tool and not the absolute rule as we engage in co-creating this practice with residents.
Neighborhood Storytelling Practice Timeline
- Phase 1 – Design (2023-2024)
- Phase 2 – Implementation (2024-2025)
> Phase 1 – Design (2023-2024)
Aug 2023 – Nov 2023
- Recruit Resident Co-Creators, Design Residency Fellows
Dec 2023 – June 2024
- Co-create framework for practice in partnership with residents and neighborhood-based organizations.
- Design participant outreach and recruitment processes and methods.
- Design methods for observing and tracking the intended impact of practice.
- Recruit institutional story sharing and amplification partners.
- Identify and rough-out core components/outlets/forums for story sharing, including web-based, place-based, and institution-hosted.
- Establish practice leadership, culture, processes, and infrastructure.
- Begin recruitment process for Resident Storytellers
> Phase 2 – Implementation (2024-2025)
May 2024 – July 2024
- Integrate a place-based neighborhood storytelling hub into existing community setting (to serve up to 6 neighborhoods)
- Wrap up recruitment process for Resident Storytellers
Aug 2024 – April 2025
- Train up to 40 neighborhood Resident Storytellers using the practice framework.
- Support production of neighborhood-based stories/content pieces created by Resident Storytellers and shared throughout the community via web-based applications (including an interactive map), neighborhood-based installations, and institutional forums.
May 2025 – July 2025
- Capture learnings from early implementation to refine framework for scaling in subsequent phases.
- Begin tracking early impact of practice.
Cultivating a Neighborhood Storytelling Practice
In cultivating a Neighborhood Storytelling Practice, our goals are to:
- Develop a sustainable method for residents to train and be trained in shaping and sharing their own stories;
- Support a generative network of neighborhood-based storytellers;
- Create distinct and varied outlets for stories to be experienced and interacted with;
- Facilitate regional awareness of and engagement with stories across neighborhood boundaries and institutions.
With time, we expect the practice and its products to yield the following impact.
Short (3-5 years)
- Residents feel agency over their neighborhoods’ narratives.
- Stories that challenge negative and incomplete narratives of predominantly Black neighborhoods are intentionally elevated within the regional community and media.
- Positive and productive curiosity of and attraction to Black neighborhoods is fostered.
- Neighborhoods begin to be recognized for their distinct identities.
- There is a positive shift in narratives about Black neighborhoods.
- The region’s landscape of collective social, cultural, and entertainment gatherings prominently includes and features Black neighborhoods.
- The region’s “brand” (what we tell the world who and what we are) elevates the legacy, power, and promise of Black neighborhoods and the people within them.
It is our goal that the practice grows beyond this grant and beyond Invest STL. The intent of co-creating the framework and anchoring the instruction with residents is to nurture a neighborhood-based and driven movement that is conducted from one resident to the next, across neighborhood boundaries, generations, and institutions. This proposed work seeds the practice by cultivating story bearers, sharers, and conjurors so it can grow.
Design Residency Fellowship
Between December 2023 and June 2024 The Neighborhood Storytelling Practice Design Residency Fellows will generally gather in person twice per month on dates and hours that work best for the collective for intensive workshops to explore and detail out components of the Neighborhood Storytelling Practice framework.
Our team will facilitate the collective through cycles of generative discussion, ideation, testing/probing, refinement, and consensus for each component of the practice framework. Between workshops, our team will share concepts for the collective to independently explore/consider based on the prior workshop’s directives and to support movement toward refinement and consensus in the following workshop and overall process.
The Neighborhood Storytelling Practice Design Residency Fellows will:
- Commit 16 hours per month, including 4-8 hours in-person with the collective and 8 hours of individual preparation, research, and reflection between workshops
- Co-create a sustainable and generative neighborhood storytelling framework by meeting with Invest STL staff and affiliate organizations twice a month for the 6 months of the practice to participate in design workshops
- Individually review and reflect on concepts disbursed by Invest STL staff prior to upcoming workshops to ensure a general understanding of concepts for more engaging and collaborative in-person workshops as a collective
- Attend 1 welcoming and 1 culminating event
- Provide support with the development of training curriculum materials and tools to be used during the practice
- Support establishing practice culture, processes, and infrastructure of the neighborhood storytelling practice
Critical Qualifications and Desired Qualities
WHO CAN PARTICIPATE: You are 18 years of age or older
You live within the boundaries of North St. Louis City*
(for at least the past 2 years)
While the chosen candidates will have experience with narrative and/or community-based arts practices, storytelling, place keeping, and culture building in a broad sense, we are specifically looking for resident co-creators to step into this creative design process with us. To start, the candidate will meet these critical qualifications:
- Operational understanding of and commitment to racial equity, justice, and healing, particularly in storytelling, story-sharing, and narrative reframing.
- Demonstrable experience in narrative and/or community-based arts practices, place keeping, and culture building.
- Demonstrated ability to exercise discernment and tact when interacting with collaborators.
Additionally, we are seeking out candidates with a combination of at least some of these desired characteristics:
- Commendable communication skills.
- Strong design skills and sensibilities.
- Experience with arts curriculum design, arts training, skill building, facilitation.
- Background in written or photo journalism or video/audio production or digital humanities.
- Adaptability, strategic thinking, receptive to feedback.
- Team player with passion for community-based storytelling.
*North St. Louis City neighborhoods include: Columbus Square, Carr Square, Jeff Vanderlou, Covenant Blu-Grand Center, Vandenever, Lewis Place, Fountain Park, Academy, Visitation Park, West End, Hamilton Heights, Wells Goodfellow, Kingsway West, Kingsway East, Greater Ville, The Ville, St. Louis Place, Old North St. Louis, Hyde Park, Fairgrounds, College Hill, O’Fallon, Penrose, Mark Twain, Walnut Park East, Walnut Park West, North Point, Bayden, Riverview
Design Residency Fellowship Compensation: $12,000.00
Application + Recruitment Timeline, Oct. – Dec. 2023:
Application is open Oct. 2nd through Oct. 27th
Applications will be reviewed and selected applicants will be invited to interview by Nov. 2nd
Applicants interview period Nov. 7th through Nov. 17th
Finalize the Design Residency Fellowship Collective, invite to commit by Dec. 8th.
Welcoming, hold first gathering of the collective in early January.
Neighborhood Storytelling Practice Co-creation Process
We are seeking out seven residents of neighborhoods within North St. Louis City to partner in co-creating the storytelling practice through the Design Residency Fellowship. Specifically, we will seek to recruit narrative artists, orators, and those who have made their own practices/rituals around keeping and sharing the stories of their communities. We will develop and use a partner selection process that supports bringing together a co-creation group with a mix of experiences, viewpoints, and creative modalities while ensuring the collective has the time, energy, and curiosity to commit to the co-creation process.
Once convened, we will work with the Design Residency Fellows over a seven-month process to design the framework for the neighborhood storytelling practice. Co-creators will generally gather in person twice per month on dates and hours that work best for the collective for intensive workshops to explore and detail out components of the practice framework. Our team will facilitate the collective through cycles of generative discussion, ideation, testing/probing, refinement, and consensus for each component of the practice framework. Between workshops, our team will share concepts for the collective to independently explore/consider based on the prior workshop’s directives and to support movement toward refinement and consensus in the following workshop.
For the testing/probing stage in each cycle, we will work through our neighborhood networks and the abundant calendar of existing community events to gather feedback from residents within North City neighborhoods on the respective framework components using short interviews, surveys, and real-time demonstrations of concepts when appropriate/practical. We will also explore organizing a standing cadre of 30-50 residents who automatically will receive updates on the framework development process and be asked (and provided a modest honorarium each time) to provide feedback on components throughout the process.
Co-creation Process Guiding Questions
We anticipate facilitating the co-creation collective through the following questions to design and solidify practice components:
- How do we invite in storytellers?
- Includes designing how we identify and recruit practice participants; how participants are brought into and grounded in the practice; how we build a collective spirit within the practice and between participants
- How do we bring storytellers together in a generative way throughout the practice experience?
- Includes designing session structure and formats; identifying balance/mix of technical skill-building and individual style and approach nurturing within sessions; frequency, duration, and setting of sessions
- How do we guide storytellers in harvesting their stories?
- Includes developing verbal and other sensory prompts that evoke recollections and reflections from storytellers; building out a method to support storytellers in deepening, deconstructing, and re-weaving their recollections to form layered, evocative compositions; creating a set of small actions to support storytellers in getting “unstuck”
- How do we support storytellers in story production?
- Includes designing how we expose storytellers to the many forms their stories can be shared in a way that doesn’t overwhelm while supporting the individual storyteller in identifying the form(s) that feel aligned to their voice and vision; creating methods or tools to help storytellers select and guide creative professionals in the production of their stories
- How do we inspire storytellers to also be story conductors?
- Includes developing method for reinforcing and extending the learnings of the practice for storytellers to carry forward into their own neighborhoods with their own neighbors—how we support them in nurturing and inviting in the next collective of storytellers
- How do we connect and extend stories to community and place?
- Includes developing rituals for celebrating storytellers and embedding their stories in their neighborhoods; creating opportunities for one teller’s story to be the springboard for other stories within a shared place; identifying ways to weave together/overlay stories from tellers’ who share the same place
- How do we sustain the practice, the stories, and the storytellers for at least a generation?
- Includes creating a process/method for capturing learnings from each season of the practice to further shape and streamline for sustainability; creating a process for revisiting and extending stories; naming and developing a set of enabling constraints to ensure the practice continues