The Our Tomorrows project operates from three guiding principles: right intention, reciprocity, and inclusion. I’ll write a full blog post about this in the upcoming weeks. For now, let’s focus on reciprocity. Reciprocity means that the effort partners have made to collect stories, learn with our project team, and host Sensemaking Workshops is mutually beneficial to their work.
One of the ways that the Our Tomorrows project upholds this principle is by making sure that people are able to use the data they helped create for decision-making in their own community (however that might be defined). Because Our Tomorrows has distributed the work of story collection, we might not always know who should have access to what data- but we can get close. The rest of this blog post sheds some light on the process we have developed so far.
What is a community?
Our Tomorrows defines community in many different ways. Sometimes a community is:
- A geographic area defined by ZIP codes, counties, cities, or regions
- A service area of an Organizational Partner or Community Champion
- A community of practice (people brought together by a common mission and vision)
- Groups of people with a shared identity (race, ethnicity, age, gender, etc)
- An organization and its constituents
- A group of people with shared interest in a certain topic
- A combination of the options above?
There are many ways to ‘disaggregate’ SenseMaker data (the tool we use to collect stories for Our Tomorrows). So many ways, in fact, that the greatest challenge is to figure out the combination of questions on the Our Tomorrows instrument, ZIPCodes, URL tags, and metadata that define which stories should be returned to partners at Community Sensemaking Workshops.
The importance of using the right URL:
The easiest way to ensure that the stories you collect are being counted is by using a custom URL provided by the Our Tomorrows project. These custom URLs include four tags that can be used to identify where stories came from.
- Citizen Journalist
Every story or experience that is entered on a custom URL is tagged with the information from the URL tags. This allows the Our Tomorrows team to quickly filter all of the stories by the custom tags.
For example, let’s say that LiveWell Northwest KS wants to know the number of stories that they have collected so far. The custom URL for Northwest Kansas is
This URL contacts tags for Initiative (Initiative=Northwest) and Organization (Organization=LiveWell). If LiveWell Northwest Kansas asks how many stories they have collected, we can filter by the ‘organization’ tag for quick reference. Usually, we would also check some of the ZIP Codes in LiveWell’s story collection area to make sure that we don’t miss any stories that might have been entered on a different URL.
“I know I got more stories than that!!!”
We have recently become aware that sometimes, the custom URLs are not properly tagging stories when partners are collecting at events. In this week’s weekly update email, you might have seen the Data Collection Alert. As we are figuring out how to resolve this issue, we are asking people collecting stories to re-enter your custom URL every time you want to share a new story. We are working with the SenseMaker support team to find a longer term fix to this issue.
The bottom line- we want the stories you collect to be counted toward your collection goals and we want the stories you collect to be accessible in your Community Sensemaking Workshops and Community Action Labs. Double-checking that you are using the right URL is best way to help us help you!
As always, please let our team know if you have any questions or ideas at firstname.lastname@example.org
Keep up the good work!