“Lifers,” Computers and Kids Community building and technology education in Tacoma’s Al Davies Boys and Girls Club
The ICTD field is filled with individual success stories extolling the benefits of ICT access and fluency. These stories are often highly influential because they are rhetorically powerful, memorable narratives that create lasting frames to contextualize and interpret other data. Unfortunately, they are often driven by the demands of public relations as opposed to rigorous analysis.
When the goal is to share the story of a super star and tug heart strings, important details can be omitted. To understand how ICT programs work for typical trainees, to spread narratives that illuminate deeper dynamics and to amplify broadly useful lessons, stories should be researched and constructed with intention and rigor.
CIS is developing a methodology and story series that attempts to tap the rhetorical and qualitative explanatory power of detailed, contextualized, and personalized ICT case studies. While tension may sometimes exist between an organization’s desire to feature certain cases and the critical researcher’s commitment to rigor, a methodology built on intensive questioning and storytelling rich in the right details can uncover and communicate evidence of successful programs.
By crafting exemplary stories, by developing and disseminating useful methodological tools and by promoting these techniques among NGO managers and grant makers, CIS aims to shape a research framework that can fulfill the needs of NGOs and donors with stories that accurately represent realities in underserved communities. Properly constructed, evidence-based stories can serve the ends of rigorous analysis while publicizing good work.
This paper is an example and an experiment in this methodological landscape. It is supported in large part by a grant from Microsoft Community Affairs.
Sullivan, J. 2008. “Lifers,” Computers and Kids Community building and technology education in Tacoma’s Al Davies Boys and Girls Club. Evidence Narrative Series, Seattle: Technology & Social Change Group, University of Washington Information School.