A Weekend of Pioneering

Over the past weekend, we had our Accountability Incubator workshop at Cocina Mitho Chha in Lazimpat, an area of Kathmandu with the only road connecting the northern part to the southern. 

The workshop was an effort to help our "Accountapreneurs" connect with each other and guest speakers, as well as learn new skills and develop a timeline for their initiatives. We not only covered how to gain visibility and credibility as a new organization and how to recognize success stories that promote their narrative, but also sustainability, visual storytelling and crowdfunding.

First off, meet our FOUR amazing Accountapreneurs: Basanta, Anita, Medha and Govinda.

They are a part of our Accountability Incubator, a flagship program for young civil society leaders to build sustainable, effective tools for accountability, participation and social impact. We assist these change-makers in their efforts to transform their communities, providing them with two years of support in training, mentorship, networking, media outreach and seed funding. 

What makes them the driving force behind this initiative? Well, here's a little more about them:

Basanta Adhikari started his organization Bikalpa ("The Alternative"), to train youth in eastern Nepal on civic leadership and advocacy for fundamental rights. With the support of Accountability Lab, he's leading youth in conducting surveys of governing agencies in Biratnagar.

Anita Thapa began her nonprofit Sambhawana recently and has since established a hand-on civic education program that evaluates schools, builds custom curricula on democracy and governance and enables students to lead community improvement projects in their schools.

Medha Sharma founded her nonprofit Visible Impact to empower young girls in creating sustainable change in Nepali society. With Accountability Lab's support, she plans to train, mentor and equip adolescent girls in the earthquake-affected district of Nuwakot to become pioneering citizen journalists through writing blogs and news articles. Follow her @shmedha

Govinda Siwakoti co-founded film company, Onion Films, to use the power of film for social change. With the Lab's support, he set up an Accountability Film School to empower young people in Nepal to speak up about economic, social and political issues in their communities.

We discussed the pillars of creating a value driven organization, shared stories that had an impact on us and that we could model after in our own storytelling.

Truth is, we want to open people's minds — and ultimately change them.

On Sunday, I gave a talk on why and how storytelling is effective in creating a narrative to implement change in society. I shared my experience last summer filming the life of a Palestinian olive farmer and his unique bond with an Israeli olive farmer amid political tensions. This was an experience that shook my core and taught me more about love, devotion and hope than I had in my 28 years of life.

Nahed Kayed, a Palestinian olive farmer who lives with his family in Sabastiya in the West Bank.

Nahed Kayed, a Palestinian olive farmer who lives with his family in Sabastiya in the West Bank.

I explained: It doesn't matter if you have a smart phone, a $3,000 digital camera, or $12,000 cinema camera. It matters not how much your equipment costs or how beautiful your footage is, first comes the story. Honestly, it's great to have both. But if you could only have one, you focus on story. And you put your all into telling that story. If the story isn't there, it doesn't matter how breathtaking the footage is, it can only take you so far.

When telling a story, you want to make your audience feel, connect, relate and walk away changed. There's so much more that goes into storytelling, but the most important truth is that "great stories go to those who don't give in to fear." We all change over time and our perspective sharpens with experience, but we all have that something inside us to tell stories. Use what's inside you to shape perceptive, influence change and lead the way in creating a better tomorrow.

My colleagues Kalpana Acharya and Sara Rodriguez also shared their updates on Mobile Citizen Helpdesk, an initiative that helped monitor and improve earthquake response in Nepal and now has since evolved. What challenges lie ahead? And how do we sustain a successful model?

Sara Rodriguez working hard. 

Sara Rodriguez working hard. 

Over lunch, one of our guest speakers, Lokesh Todi, talked to us about the importance of crowd funding — To do's and not to do's. It's important to put some money of your own in, or collect donations at smaller events before launching your online campaign. Why you ask? This will show potential donors it's worth investing in because others have already invested. And producing a short video showing who you are, what your organization is about and your mission is mandatory. You want to humanize your initiative and make people care. So first make us care about you.  Again, storytelling, is mandatory to get your organization recognized amid the crowded sea of organizations. Trust me on that.

Lokesh Todi talks with us about crowd funding over lunch.

Lokesh Todi talks with us about crowd funding over lunch.

There's a lot more to mention, but these were the things that jumped out at me the most. I'm so happy to share with you how wonderful I thought the workshop went over the weekend. I learned a lot, got to take pictures, spend quality time with everyone and eat great food, Dal Bhat.

I mean, what else do you really need than good company, good food and a heck a lot of learnings.