Scribes give feedback on the storytelling project

[Part 1] [Part 2: Strong patterns] [Part 3: Scribes’ feedback]

Last week we used our SMS gateway to ask 65 recent scribes a few questions about this project. They, after all, are the real intermediaries in this whole community development process and should have the best perspective on what value this approach has at the local level.

What we asked:

Remember, you only get 160 characters to set the context and ask the question.

  1. [SMS #1]: You have helped GlobalGiving collect {storycount} stories so far. We’d like to hear from you. Did you find this scribe experience useful? Why? How?
  2. [SMS #2]: As a story scribe for GlobalGiving, can you tell us by sms:  Is there a better way to collect insights on the community efforts in your community?
  3. [SMS #3]: GlobalGiving: As we redesign our storytelling project in 2013, if there is anything else you would like to tell us about it, reply with sms or we can call you

On question #3, you’ll notice there’s no end punctuation. I miscounted the character length and that’s literally what the scribe got on his/her phone.

{storycount} gets filled in with the number of stories each individual scribe collected. Nice trick, huh? That’s what you can do when you have a decent set of SMS feedback tools. Unfortunately we had to built them ourselves. This SMS feedback survey tool works on every phone, period. And it costs us 10 KES a day for unlimited 2-way texting (that’s about 15 cents a day).

What scribes wrote back:

  • Its useful,through writing of stories many things have come out from the society,also understanding what NGOs have been doing to help people with problems and how to tackle it.many young guys also have benefited from programs enhanced by GlobalGiving
  • The fomat is ok bcoz it has questions from al areas.may b it wil b more beter if only the problems b solved imediatly bcoz some r of in need of help
  • Sms
  • Yes ,because i can share what is going on in the communities by writting about them.
  • The only thing I may recomend is doing a template on soft copy so that those who can do it on soft copy can do it with ease.
  • I will respond to ur sms tomorrow.l am tired now.thank for your
  • Who a u guyz?a don anastand u bits…… a writer n a motivational speaker tho av never taken part in wat u poppin up,come up distinctively,am out of line!
  • Yes,this is because u understand the vision the organization has and why they helps u know more about the community and they can be assisted or riched out easily.
  • It was useful bcoz it helps to know the various problems that is afectng people in the comunities so that it can b solved thx
  • Yah it was am now saving some cash for my school fees
  • As we r scribing the stories from the ground it is a gud way
  • In my opinion, this the best way to do it. The story collector finds it easy to collect fact even from the iliterate and as such makes it easy document.
  • Yes it was useful because I have been able to document the good work that is done by the Civil Society through donor support.
  • yes. the community issues have been highlited and will help prioritize and accomplish development goals set.
  • Who a u guyz?a don anastand u bits…… a writer n a motivation speaker tho av never taken part in wat u poppin up,come up distinctively!
  • The one you are using is ok to those who are computer ilitrate but you can use a temblet to other people .
  • Just a min am reply
  • Since the first time i started writing articles,i do believe that the current system of writing stories and collecting them from the society is the best,as it has the writer who can still collect views and stories from those who can’t even write
  • Yes by visiting the communities
  • CALL ME <<< I called him. See below. >>>
  • There’s that part where one is being asked whether to be contacte by phone,i believe that if it could be added an email part it could also be better.otherwise i thank GlobalGiving with its simplified questionaires which can be understood in a simple way
  • Am sowi i jst wasnt nxt 2 ma 4ne..kal me if u cn.
  • Am one too,nway is it an organization o wat?n a u by any chance available in kakamega?
  • If u can giv it more time
  • GlobalGivinga:Am Michael & hav been highly involved in your project,plz call me on my no.O719——-.I hav alot to share with you, pliz i beg.Thanks.
  • it was nice bieng a scribe bcos i used it as a source of income and i met many people who taught me alot of things in tha community.
  • Yes this scribe ìs very useful because make people to air out problems that affect most of the different areas in the community and by doing this now diffent org came to peoples rescure of traing about those issures and forsure it has chage many lifes and we are greatful
  • <<<FROM THE CALL ME GUY ABOVE>>>: scribed 2 months ago. “I realized therea re some important things coming up on the stories. I collected in Kibera and also near Homa Bay (Western Kenya). The emerging issues of our environment… Same: hygienic conditions in both places, but out there they just dig pits. Wanted help raising funds for my own project in Kibera. Would like to collect more stories in the future…”
  • I find it helpful.It has helped me reach people from different walks of life,gauge the level of development in the society,learn different lifestyles and many many things i knew not. I’ve been able to mingle with humble people and see their different challenges right from various story narrations.It has been a good experience.
  • yes
  • By having global giving agents
  • give me more papers for me to be able collecting more information. like 10,000
  • Commit more resources
  • Yes,lt has made us know the problem in our community
  • The people and the community should be helped to eradicate poverty in the community
  • The form is ok may be in 2013 it will be beter if the problems wil b solved imediatly
  • i’ve helped you collect 482 stories. can i get a token of appreciation? and also sponsure me in construction of children’s home so that i can change our community through global giving. reply


It’s all there: I’ve posted ALL the feedback, because too often people who promote SMS and mobile technology as the “wave of the future” in Africa never present real messages to illustrate the quality of what you are likely to get.

Incredibly high reply rate. 42 of 66 scribes replied within 24 hours, for a 64% response rate. Scribes are also invested in giving us legitimate phone numbers. In contrast, when we invited past storytellers to share another story by SMS and offered them some airtime as a reward, nobody took up the offer, and we had a bit more bad phone numbers.

And I don’t think the high response rate is only because we paid each one 15 cents per story they collected. The highest paid of these sixty six scribes earned $90 over 2 years, and the least involved earned 75 cents, yet people responded across the board regardless of past monetary incentives to our question.

Several people said they thought it helped them understand their community.

Some wanted us to provide “soft copy” – meaning a web form. We’ve found almost nobody actually uses them.

A few people considered it a source of income. One paid his school fees by scribing.

Several people said this is the best way to reach illiterate and people without access to technology.

Comments were generally positive and relevant to the questions we posed.

I still owe a few people follow-up phone calls. Those I tried did not pick up last time I tried.

Summary of scribe feedback

Future parts of this series of analysis blog posts:

NEXT: Overall Story Patterns from Machine Learning (

#5: Changing your point of view to tell a more compelling story

#6: Assessing story quality: who is a reliable observer and how much sample diversity is “enough”?

#8: NGO network maps: which organizations get named and in what context?

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