Groundswell: Oral History for Social Change
Winter 2017 Six-Session Introductory Online Class

12:00 - 2:00 pm ET
February 14th - March 21st, 2017

Course Info  *  Instructor Bios *  Registration Info

Course Info

We are living in a time of great uncertainty. Our communities are confronting serious challenges around justice, opportunity and human rights. The recent US presidential election, the Brexit vote, Standing Rock, and many other social events have made more visible the stark divisions in our values and goals. How might oral history help us build the movements we need in this moment?

Groundswell: Oral History for Social Change knows that oral history and narrative can be used to promote equity and empathy that challenge oppression and racism. If you are looking for new ways to address social justice challenges in your work and community, the practice of community-based oral history can offer you important new insights and methods to further positive change.

Groundswell is offering a six-session online class, introducing participants to oral history for social change and movement building. This class will provide you with skills and insights needed to build projects that incorporate oral history and narrative in order to advance justice, build empathy, and move social justice projects forward. Participants will learn about how narrative and oral history methods are being used to build alliances, center marginalized voices and identify real strategies for change. In this introductory class you will learn the basic skills needed to do community-based, anti-oppression oral history.

Each class is two hours long and includes time for group discussion on the week's theme. Participants will be provided access to a recording of each class. Weekly assignments and course readings encourage a deeper exploration of the material. Topics covered include:

  • The basics of oral history for social change
  • Ethics and anti-oppression in oral history
  • How to develop an effective interview
  • Oral history technology
  • The building blocks of community-based oral history

The course outline will give you a sense of the kind of material covered. The full syllabus with details on class assignments and readings will be shared with registered participants in advance of the first class.

Instructor Bios

With Alisa Del Tufo of Groundswell and Threshold Collaborative as the lead instructor, 4 of the 6 sessions will also have a guest instructor. Each guest instructor was chosen because of their unique experience and understanding of the focus of that session. 

Alisa Del Tufo – Lead Instructor
Alisa has worked to support justice and to strengthen empathy throughout her life. Raising over 80 million dollars, she founded three game changing organizations: Sanctuary for Families, CONNECT and, most recently, Threshold Collaborative. She is also one of the co-founders of Groundswell. In the early 1990s she pioneered the use of oral history and community engagement to build grassroots change around the issues of family, and intimate violence. Her innovations have been recognized through Revson, Rockefeller, and Ashoka Fellowships.

Her current project, Threshold Collaborative, uses story as a catalyst for change. Threshold Collaborative’s work deepens empathy and ignites action in order to build more just, healthy and caring communities. They work with justice seeking people and organizations around the country.

Nissa Chan
Vanissa W. Chan is a media artist and community organizer.  For the last 7 years Vanissa has been working on a long-term documentary project called the Forced Trajectory Project (FTP), which documents the narratives of families who have lost loved ones to police violence.  The multimedia exhibit incorporates film, photography, sound and illustration to translate the collective experience of individuals and communities that suffer from police violence in order to amplify their voices and to inform the discussion of social change in the United States.  FTP has been exhibited in across the country at conferences, film festivals, social justice events, and galleries.  It was featured as a spotlight project at Groundswell's National Network Gathering at Allied Media Conference in 2015, has been a two-time recipient of the JustFilms Travel Grant, was awarded the OHA Emerging Crisis Grant in 2015, received Honorable Mention at a juried exhibition at Left of Center Gallery in January 2016, and was most recently awarded the 2016 LIUU Grant for Social Change.  She is the co-founder of the Justice for Kenny Coalition and Families United 4 Justice, both family-led initiatives to bring awareness of police violence issues through sharing the collective experience of those affected by police violence.  Currently Vanissa resides in Las Vegas, NV where she is attending graduate school for her Master's in Social Work.

Helyx Chase
In addition to being an independent video artist, Helyx Chase Scearce Horwitz is a cord wrangler (read: Tech Manager) for the Media Mobilizing Project and served for several years as Philadelphia Coordinator for the Transgender Oral History Project. Helyx is passionate about storytelling as a means to draw connections within and between communities. Their video art is built by about and for televisions and computers. Helyx holds a B.A. from Hampshire College where they studied Video, Activism and Youth Development.   

Terrell Frazier
Terrell is a Ph.D. student in Sociology and a Paul F. Lazarsfeld Fellow at Columbia University. Before joining the Sociology department, Terrell completed his M.A. in African-American Studies at Columbia, where he also worked as the Director of Education and Outreach for the Columbia Center for Oral History Research and as a researcher at the Interdisciplinary Center for Innovative Theory and Empirics.  While at the Center for Oral History Research, he launched the Telling Lives: Oral History for Social Change workshop series and co-edited Documenting and Interpreting Conflict Through Oral History. His current research explores—using both narrative and network methods—the relationship between social movement actors’ social positions and their capacities for strategic action.

Sarah K. Loose
Groundswell's co-founder and co-coordinator, Sarah is a popular educator, oral historian, and community organizer based in Portland, Oregon. Sarah first fell in love with the power and practice of oral history when facilitating a two-year, community-based oral history project with popular educators in Santa Marta, El Salvador.  In the years since, she has organized for economic, racial and environmental justice alongside rural progressives, immigrants, people of faith, and low-income workers in Washington and Oregon. She directs Rural Organizing Voices and co-directs Amamantar y Migrar, an oral history/organizing project exploring the impacts of immigration policy and enforcement on breastfeeding practices among Latinx immigrant parents. Sarah studied at Yale (B.A., History) and Columbia (M.A., Oral History).

Registration Info

Slots are limited and available first come, first serve.
Registration Fee: $140 for Groundswell members / $175 for non-members.

Registration closes February 5th.

Eventbrite - Groundswell: Oral History for Social Change Introductory Course

Please note: we have one full scholarship available in exchange for help with class logistics.
If you are interested in this option, please e-mail for more info.