Blogging for Social Change

Since our initial mee­ting in 2011, Groundswell has been steadily building our network of social justice-oriented oral historians, activists, cultural workers, community organizers, and documentary artists.

 We started with these goals:

  1. To facilitate creative collaboration, mutual learning and support, and resource/information sharing between experienced practitioners and potential practitioners.
  2. To contribute at a regional and national level to conversations and practice that use or seek to use narrative in organizing and social justice work.
  3. To develop knowledge, skills and tools to support our work and that demonstrate the effectiveness and impact of narrative and oral history.

Through our regular Practitioner Support Networks, we have progressed toward these goals by facilitating insightful conversations on honoring narrators, on sharing oral histories once they are collected, and just this month, on participatory action research, a mode of research that incorporates researchers’ social action goals. These conversations have been great ways to connect oral historians and cooperatively develop new ethical approaches.

Now, our aim is to broaden the conversation even further: with the Groundswell blog.

With the Groundswell blog, we aim to open up a participative space to share experiences, ideas, and challenges related to conducting oral history and creating grassroots narratives for social change.

Instead of having one person do all the blogging, we envision having a multitude of guest bloggers. This way we can make this a more open space, while increasing the diversity of experience which informs the content of the blog.

So if you’re involved in using narrative and/or oral history for social change, we invite you to contribute!

You can share your current work using audio clips, video, pictures, and/or written reflection.

You might give tips on using a piece of technology that works particularly well for you.

You might review published work related to oral history and social change.

You might reflect on an issue that came up while you were practicing oral history or grassroots narrative creation.

There are so many possibilities!


Here are some issues that merit discussion:


  • Are there unique strategies that are used that differentiate traditional oral history from oral history that is intentionally being used for social justice goals?
  • Who identifies as oral historians? Do they tend to come from privileged backgrounds, or underprivileged ones? How can oral history become more inclusive?
  • To what extent have oral histories, and the field of oral history, replicated patterns of sexism, racism, heterosexism, ableism, classism, and other forms of oppression? How have oral histories been used to challenge these forms of oppression? What possibilities exist for the future?
  • In what ways does oral history support healing and empowerment with people who are marginalized, who have experienced trauma and exploitation? In what ways might it be exploitive?
  • What role do archives play in contributing to social movements? What roles might they play in the future?
  • What are critical issues related to the ethics of editing and publishing of oral histories in the context of social movements?
  • In what ways can oral histories for social justice take advantage of social media and the digital revolution?
  • In what ways can oral history support research and evaluation of existing structures of justice?
  • How does/can oral history support the development of intergenerational activist communities?
  • Does oral history have a role to play in consciousness-raising and, if so, how does it actually do this? What are the limits of consciousness-raising, and how can oral historians move beyond them?


Of course, these ideas are just a start. If you would like to write something for the blog, please email blog coordinator Sam Robson at

What would you like to get out of the Groundswell blog? Let us know! Post in the comments below or email Sam Robson with ideas.


 Sarah, Alisa, Sam, and the rest of the Groundswell team