The West Virginia Community Development Hub’s Redefined: Real Stories from West Virginia storytelling project pairs inspiring stories of West Virginians leading change in their communities with actionable tools for residents to start making a difference today. Stories featuring West Virginia residents from Clarksburg, Hinton, Greenbrier County, Montgomery, New Martinsville, Princeton, Smithers, and Welch are available to view at redefinedwv.org.
Distribution efforts, which primarily include outreach to audiences using social and traditional media outlets, started in July 2021 and have reached more than 400,000 people living in Central Appalachia.
On Monday, October 18 at 9pm, West Virginia Public Broadcasting premiered five short documentary films from the series featuring the communities of Hinton, Princeton, and Clarksburg as well as West Virginia-based teams at The Welch News and Vintage Theatre Company.
The project has also been shared online by state and regional entities such as the Appalachian Regional Commission, Black in Appalachia, and the West Virginia Department of Commerce’s Daily 304.
Early data from the independent research firm Swayable indicates that stories in the Redefined series have the ability to disrupt nationally held, negative stereotypes about West Virginians. Additional data collected by the WV Community Development Hub team from statewide audiences shows that, after experiencing Redefined stories, the percentage of respondents who responded in the negative to statements about who has the opportunity to lead change in West Virginia dropped by 57% while the percentage of people who responded strongly in the affirmative increased by 19%.
“When we show real stories of West Virginians who are passionate about making a difference in their towns, we’re able to inspire hope for people living in the state and increase efforts to build local communities. Stories of West Virginians leading the charge with creative solutions to common community challenges have significant positive potential in work to turn local economies around,” said Emma Pepper, Director of Strategic Communications for the WV Community Development Hub.
In 2020, the team at the WV Community Development Hub was selected from thousands of applicants responding to a national Voices for Economic Opportunity Grand Challenge sponsored by a group of eight philanthropic organizations including the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. The team was selected to participate in a cohort of 28 grantees to learn best practices for creating storytelling campaigns that change narratives related to economic mobility and opportunity and to also produce a campaign. Working with local residents and the support of the West Virginia-based creative agency JJN Multimedia, The Hub team led a strategy to create the Redefined: Real Stories from West Virginia story series to inspire West Virginians and beyond.
The stories are available to view at redefinedwv.org.