Creating a Cycle of StoriesPosted on 1 Jan 2018 in Non-profit and Activism by Manisha
Here is a blog post by our founder Mr. Saurav Dhakal on this special occasion of New Year 2018.
Every morning I post pictures of food or farm on my Instagram, get few likes and few more subscribers to our new initiative called #GreenGrowth. Through this initiative, we are trying to promote local food and organic farming while delivering fresh vegetables to subscribers’ homes.
If you register on the site, you will get a weekly call from one of our colleagues to choose from a large variety of products that will be delivered in a basket at your doorstep inside Kathmandu Valley. And all of them are organic!
While I was traveling through The Great Himalayan Trail (GHT), I came across different local produce in rural places such as Jumla (walnuts), Mustang (beans and apples), and Kanchenjunga (organic tea) which were not finding their way to Kathmandu where consumers would be literally hungry to purchase them. As a storyteller, I was pondering to come up with compelling stories about those products.
Before going on the 99-day GHT trek, I had formed StoryCycle together with some friends. We were on a pursuit of stories -- not the common stories covered by the mainstream media but stories of hidden and forgotten people, places, products, culture, tradition and much more. We wanted to showcase the stories through pictures, videos, graphics, and maps.
It was very challenging to start a new venture without any proven business model and proper team. At that time I realized there are gaps and necessity to produce and publish new kind of stories on the internet. So I tried collecting some stories related to environment and climate affected people. This approach gave me some exposure and I was selected as a Climate Champion by The British Council. This profile helped me win a chance to travel the GHT.
It was also challenging for me to travel for more than three months when my baby boy was just born. I started my trek after when he was 16 days old. But the GHT provided me different perspectives of my own life and inspired me through the different stories that I came across.
I was inspired to start the idea of StoryCamp after embarking on the 99-day journey. The beginning of StoryCamp started to serve my quest for the vivid expression of such untold tales. The StoryCycle team started traveling to various small towns and villages of Nepal collecting stories and training local enthusiastic storytellers on newer technologies for sharing stories.
During our camps, we would mark the visited areas on Google Maps and teach the same to fellow trainees in order to increase the digital footprints of the area. During our trip, we realized that many places were not recorded on the map and hence information about them was not available on the internet. I saw many beautiful places along the 1555-km stretch across Nepal during my 99-day trek and recorded stories at some places but I had never been able to showcase a clearer picture of those areas due to lack of technology and skills.
StoryCycle’s collaboration with Google in late 2014 came as a milestone towards fulfilling the dream to conduct mapping projects in the Everest region using 360 degrees imagery.
While we were traveling to show the Google Maps Project to the locals, there was a big earthquake and we couldn't move ahead. It took me six days to be back with my family. Everyone suffered due to the earthquake and I suffered, our teams of StoryCycle and GreenGrowth suffered due to it.
It was a very challenging moment for me and my two ventures. I felt really alone at the moment, but I tried to engage myself in new work. We tried producing a story of Barpak, the epicenter of the April earthquake and collected fund for it.
Parallelly, I was also working hard to promote the idea of GreenGrowth. GreenGrowth is not a food business for me, it's a story business. The only difference is that the story can now be consumed.
The earthquake also compelled me to think about my family roots and to rebuild my cracked house. It was another challenge. Our family decided to shift from Kathmandu to Sindhuli, our family hometown and build a new and safe house.
In the meantime, it occurred to me that the place we were planning to shift to could be a nice and beautiful place. Only if we could use our skills of mapping, storytelling and local food promotion! It might be the key to sustainable growth for the place.
Then again I came up with another social innovative venture called Our Dream City, collaborating with different partners to design a sustainable, livable and smart place/city.
Now with three different ventures and products, the major challenge for me is how to team up.
I tried to adopt a new approach for team building -- a member-based organization with no employees. Every individual has both positive and negative attributes and strengths and weaknesses. I believe that focusing on positive attributes or strength generates more energy than negative attributes, weaknesses or problems. I am trying to create a space/organization with a co-existing platform. All members here have an equal share in decision making and formulating policies and guidelines. The members work on assignments as per their experience and expertise and share the benefits accordingly.
After working for two years, now we are 26 members engaged in the three ventures. We call for membership every year. The members meet regularly to discuss the strategy, ongoing assignments, and activities, and planning for future.
My journey that started with stories, has encompassed not only food but also dreams to build a better city, society, and country. With my team of able colleagues and like-minded people collaborating in our journey, I believe we’ll be able to inspire the young generation to take up the reins in their hands – to build better communities with a better quality of life. So that the whole world will crave to listen to our story!