StoryCycle has four phases: StoryCamp, Stories online, On air and Offline screening. What each “phase” does is mere technicality. What it touches is millions of lives and what it aims to do is make Nepal accessible to the world, digitally.
What is StoryCycle?
StoryCycle is the result of a year of Backpack Journalism. In 2008, Saurav Dhakal and his friends decided to tell stories through their travels. They went to places and began sharing their experiences with people through stories. StoryCycle, as an online platform was born in 2009 when the group needed a place to showcase their work. In 2010, a major turning point for StoryCycle happened when Saurav travelled 1,555 kilometers through the Great Himalayan Trail (GHT). Though the idea was born way before that, it was at this point that Saurav and his friends realized where they wanted to take the stories they had collected during their travels. The experience that he shared with his friends lived longer when he came up with an innovative initiative.
“We walked for days and then we realized how these places are inaccessible digitally to the people. There are no traces in the map of all the amazing places we walked through all day. We realized then that there is a possibility of putting Nepal in the world map, this time, digitally. That is how the map-up camps’ idea was born,” says Saurav, Founder of StoryCycle.
From then on, StoryCycle has been enhanced and re-invented itself but mapping-up of different parts of the country that they traveled through within Google Maps has always been a part of each project. These map-up camps today include local journalists and technicians plotting landmarks from their travels even in the most remote parts of the world. They are trained during StoryCamps and besides collecting videos and stories they also map the country in Google Maps.
From download to upload culture
“We need to upload more now that we know how significant this is in today’s world,” adds Saurav.
The leap that technology has taken is surreal, to say the least. What was introduced a decade back is now an overused socially pervasive material looking to be “updated”. We have platforms like YouTube and Facebook that have made it into our lives and stayed there. And then there are tools like Google Maps and its Street View features that allow users to enter their towns and streets. We can make use of these features to upload our stories online. What is the best place to start? Our trekking trails!
“Videos are more accessible to people than other media. People relate to it more easily. So we collected stories initially and we continued uploading videos that we collected during our travels,” says Saurav.
StoryCycle decided to make an online platform where people can post their videos. The core members of the team posted their own videos and encouraged other people to do the same. “We provided the digital platform. All they had to do was enter their videos. However, not everyone has the ability or inclination to produce videos and unsurprisingly, very few people participated in our initiative. However, we did not lose heart and continued developing our stories. We developed them after my 2012 trek along the GHT. Today our approach is completely different,” remarks Saurav.
Today, StoryCycle comprises of four elements - Story Camp, Stories online, On air and Public screening. We follow this format in all the stories that we do.
During the travels along the Great Himalayan Trail, there was a blog coverage and live coverage of the entire event. It added perspective and showed the possibility of developing StoryCycle from a story blog to a full-fledged narrative of travel stories that people can relate to, that too, globally. And there was a huge chance of success once the local people were included and trained in StoryCamps.
“The places that we go to, they are not just photographs. People live there. They have a life. There are stories of happiness and success, sadness and loss, just as we do. Each place is an amalgamation of all these experiences. Mere photographs cannot do justice to these stories. We need more. That is what StoryCycle is all about,” informs Saurav.
StoryCycle as a cycle
StoryCamp starts the StoryCycle. Saurav and his team encourage local people in a particular geographical location to participate in StoryCamp. Each camp is unique in its objective and location; they have a motive or a theme. From hydropower in a region to tourism in another, the team looks for the specialty in each location and then the story revolves around that theme. Stories Online takes these stories of camps online. They make sure these stories are accessible to everyone around the world in their portal. Popular stories are carried by On-air media and then follow-up stories are done to take the story to another level. Finally, offline screening of these stories take them to where they were generated in the first place. Presentation of the stories in the location where it was first born completes the StoryCycle.
Last April, StoryCycle took its story to the Khumbu region of Nepal, probably the most sought after region internationally. They walked for 10 days with a team of 13 and covered more than 100 kilometers in the treacherous mountains, collecting stories and then finding map points. In support of Google Earth Outreach, along with 360 degrees media team they walked the trails and gathered valuable information that makes it possible for people across the world to enjoy the wonder that is the Khumbu region without actually having to go there.
The entire journey made two things possible. First, it collected map locations that put the region beautifully on Google Earth. Similarly, 360 degrees panoramic views of the locations in the region was collected so now people look at these places as if they are actually a part of it, even without physically being there. Secondly, it has brought stories in video shot of 360 GB. Rather than mere numbers, these are narratives and stories that deserve a place in the international and national platform. And they have rightly found their place.
Besides promoting the Khumbu region, the project managed to inspire local technicians and stakeholders in promoting the region through training. The most important outcome of the StoryCycle in the Khumbu region is that it inspired individuals who are willing to be a part of the storytelling.
Internet and Tourism
We are now a part of the world community that is quickly and surely directing attention towards their respective countries. Nepal is behind the others in leaving a digital footprint. The first challenge is to be a part of the global map so that people can actually know about our existence along with services we can provide. But this alone is not enough.
“Digital footprint in itself is boring if we cannot connect them to stories of a particular place. People do not relate to a place the way they can relate to people. The latter has a more lasting impact on individuals,” explains Saurav.
Another important aspect of tourism is the use of local resources, especially human resources to make sure our projects have a lasting impact. StoryCycle has managed to cover all these points.
“This is a huge leap for the development of Nepal. Now it falls upon us to use wireless technology correctly,” says Saurav. “Internet is probably the best place for national branding these days. We better make use of this technology,” he adds.
The story continues
And the story continues after the Khumbu Region visit. It took the team 11 months to come up with the final product of their visit. All the videos and panoramic views of the region are now available online for everyone to see. But the story doesn’t stop there. They are already planning a visit to the Rasuwa region of Nepal. Local technicians and journalists are being consulted for the StoryCycle to continue. The StoryCamp will be held before summer this year. And the story continues with more camps, videos, stories and map up camps. The cycle continues just as the stories with more and more places in Nepal making it to Google maps and more people from remote regions of Nepal having their stories heard by people in all corners of the globe. These stories promote Nepal and the Nepalis and more than that, they help people relate to this country. With more access, it will have a bigger impact on people around the world, and also on the people in the far corners of our own country. There are thousands of stories waiting to be told in Nepal; StoryCycle aims to write all these stories, digitally and beautifully.