The STM methodology, being a combination of the DFC and the DST methodologies, follows its own rules. What distinguishes it from both the methodology and derives from is

1.     In DST, we create digital stories to express our experience. In DFC, we take action to make a change in the community. STM combines the two and becomes a methodology to create a digital story to inspire a change in the community.

2.     Deriving from a problem solving methodology based on empathy (DFC), it works around a challenge. However, in the DFC methodology, we cannot know the final product of the process, and what will the children actually implement or create in the DO phase. In the STM methodology, the product is set to be a digital story created using the tools of DST. Since one of the most important aspects of the DFC is that the children work on challenges that they choose and deeply care for (not what their mentor chooses for them as a subject), the subject of the digital story is unknown in the beginning. Therefore the STM methodology starts with a very specific and simultaneously very open challenge proposition: How can children/young people create a meaningful digital story that will inspire the change they want to see in the community? Or How can we create a meaningful digital story that creates awareness and productive reaction to the audience about a problem that we, the youngsters, care for?

3.    DFC is happening in a group, unlike the DST that creates individual, true stories. The final product, the DO phase for DFC, is a digital story that follows the rules of DST, with the only difference being that the story told is collective and might even be imaginary. Truthfulness in STM is not seen as the narration of actual facts but as the creative expression of genuine emotions with a truthful motivation for change.


  1. Understand your values: The world I want to live in (- and save for the children, in case you are an adult)

This is an individual activity. It is a self-reflection on everything that surrounds us – things we are aware of and those we are yet to discover. 

Children create a collage that represents The world they want to live in. They use old magazines and newspapers by cutting the pictures and symbols that help them answer this question. They can also draw and write on their collages. It is important for them to have as much freedom in the creative process as possible. Give them time to reflect and make a collage. 

After making the collage, they make a short presentation in front of the rest of the class and explain their work. 

Ensure that work and perspectives are valid for all and have participants actively listen to each other.

  1. Choose a problem to work on

After the individual work, they gather around to see what kind of problems they identified in the previous activity by brainstorming

Snowball fight (brainstorming)

This activity is messy, but it’s worth it. 

Have pupils sit in a circle. Give smaller papers to each participant. Have them write down one problem they identified before or thought of at that moment. When they write the problem, they make a ball out of it and throw it toward others (they “fight” with paper balls). 

Then they pick up one ball, open it and write down another problem that they thought of by reading the one written on the paper they opened. This can and should be anything that comes to mind. 

Give the participants time to brainstorm this way. 

After a while (no more than 15-20 minutes), stop the snowball fight. 

Participants open all the papers and write the problems on post-it notes (one post-it, one problem). 

They place the post-its on flipchart paper, whiteboard or some other surface. Have children come to the board one by one, read the problem out loud and put it on the board close to the other similar ones. While placing the post-its, they group them by a certain logic. This is a part where you will have to facilitate the process more than usual by helping them make logical groups. Make it a proper group work by having everybody participate in grouping the problems. Name these clusters in a way everybody understands. 

Have all participants go to the board and vote (put their name on the post-it notes) for 3 problems they would like to be solved. 

Each participant explains the problems with the most votes during a short discussion by answering the question: Why is this problem important to me? 

After the discussion, everybody votes once more with just 1 vote. 

Create groups by the problem they voted for. 

The final groups might deal with the same or different problems. 

  1. Analyse the problem

Mind map

In order to deal with the problems groups chose, they need to understand them better. This is done by analysing the problem itself (what kind of problem this is, what is connected to this problem, what causes it, who is it about etc.).

This is one of the critical points in the process, and the solutions and their effects will depend on whether we understand it well enough. 

Analyse the problem by making a mind map of answers to the questions below one by one. It is good that they research the Internet to find some answers they don’t know. 

In this case, in the mind map, the problem will be written in the middle of a sheet of paper, and all the findings and information will be gathered around it in a logical way. 

What is happening? 

Explain how you know the problem exists. 

What do you see? Why do you see it this way? 

What do you feel? Why do you feel this way? 

Whom the problem affects? Why? 

What do you think are the causes? 

Why is it important to solve this problem?

What change do we want to see in the community?

What do you hear from others about this problem? Why do people think this way? 

Which people should we raise the awareness and reaction of?

After the research, groups present their work to the class. Use this moment to ask for the feedback of the class for each group. Is there something important that they forgot to put on their map? When giving feedback don’t forget to always start and end your comments with positive remarks, and in between, offer suggestions for improvement.  

Who is the audience you want to affect? 

By answering the last question from the list above, pupils make a list of people this problem somehow concerns.

For this process, it is especially important to understand the audience that will see the story because our main goal is to design a story that inspires them to make a change! 

Out of the list the children created, have them choose the group of people they want to speak to with their story. Ask them to identify extremes within this target audience. 

Extremes can fall on several spectrums. For example, in the target group “young people”, youngsters that love animals and the ones that hate them are extremes, while on another spectrum, extremes are the ones that live with their parents and those that live alone. 

Frame the challenge

To prepare for the interviews with our audience, we need to have our challenge put in a sentence that keeps us going and makes us focused on the audience and not the problem. 

Have the children make a phrase using one of the formulas below and keeping in mind everything they discovered in the previous activity:

  • What do X (add the audience) need to see/feel/hear in a digital story to make them Y (add the reaction to the problem you want to create)?
  • How can we create a meaningful digital story that will inspire X (add the audience) to Y (add the reaction to the problem you want to create)?
  1. Create an image pallet for the interviews

We will try to empathise with the audience we have chosen so that we create digital stories that appeal to their hearts. They are the ones we want to affect, motivate, and inspire with our story. Interviewing is a good way to gain empathy with the people we are designing for. An interesting tool to make the interviews deeper and reach what people value and why is the image sort. By putting a deck of images at the hands of the people we interview and ask them to arrange them as they find appropriate, we can understand many things about what matters to them.  In the same time these images will be the first inspiration of the students who create the deck and maybe some of them will actually make it to the final digital story.

Ask the students to choose (from the internet, books, magazines, etc) or create their own (by drawing on paper or through the AI generator simple images or symbols that are connected with the problem they have chosen. Instruct them to choose/create 15 to 20 images, in total (every group member can choose/create 5 or 6), both of concrete and abstract ideas that can be easily understood. Print the images to create a deck of cards.

  1. Interview the people you want to inspire

Interviewing for empathy is not such an easy task. If you have time, you can exercise in class with your students using role play and discussing the rules for empathy interviewing, before you send them to do the actual interviews.

Interviewing for empathy rules:

Don’t judge. Just observe and listen to the respondents without prejudice and without judging their actions, circumstances, decisions, or “problems.”

Be curious, like a four-year-old asking “Why?” about everything. Even when you think that you know the answer, ask people why they say or do what they have described. The answers will sometimes surprise you. From the answer to one “why” form another “why” question and let the conversation continue for as long as necessary.

Listen. But really. Focus on what the interviewees say to you and how they say it, without thinking about the next thing you will say. Have your interview questions in front of you, but make sure you listen carefully and ask more questions in between, that are inspired from what you have just listened.

Ask closed questions only at the beginning, to relax the interviewee. Closed questions can be answered with one word. These are questions that start with Do…, Which…?, Who…? And similarly.

Your goal is to collect stories, and you can do that by using open-ended questions in the conversation. These questions start with: Tell me something about…, Why…?, How….?, Explain…

Fuel the story. Whether or not the stories people tell are true, they reveal how they think about the world. Ask the questions that make people tell stories. Look for inconsistencies. Sometimes what people say is different from what they do. These inconsistencies often hide interesting insights. Pay attention to non-verbal cues. Be aware of body language and emotions.

Don’t be afraid of silence. We often need to ask another question when there is a pause. And if we allow silence, the person can think about what they just said, and we can discover something more profound.

Don’t suggest answers to your questions. Even if the respondents pause before answering, do not help them by offering solutions. It can inadvertently lead people to say things that align with your expectations.

Ask neutral questions. “What do you think about littering in the park?” is a better question than “Do you think people shouldn’t litter in the park?” because the first question does not imply a correct answer.

Try to mark everything you hear and see. Always interview in a group. Someone asks, someone records the voice and someone takes detailed notes… Each group member has a specific role in conducting the interview as well as possible. It is tiring and impossible for the same person to have multiple functions. Each one needs to devote themselves to their work at that moment.

Ask the groups to prepare 5 to 10 questions for their interviews. They can use and adjust the following ones:

What is happening regarding…..? What makes you feel this way?

What do you see around you? Why do you see it this way? 

What do you feel? Why do you feel this way? 

Is it important to discuss this? Why

What do people around you think about the situation? Why do people think this way?

Make sure that they use the deck of images they have created before. They can offer it to the interviewee and ask them to put them in order of importance, inspiration, hope or satisfaction. Whatever best fits their specific project. They could also ask them to arrange them as they see fit or to sort them in groups and then name each group. When the interviewee finishes sorting, the students should ask them to explain why they sorted it the way they did. Ask as many Whys as possible to get deeper into what really values the interviewee. Use “can you describe it?” and “can you tell me more about it?” to get more information from the interviewee. 

Make sure you identify extremes and interview representatives both of the big broad mainstream and those on either extreme of the spectrum.

Understanding the people on the extremes will help understand the mainstream better and offer creative ideas for effective storytelling. 

When groups are on the field to interview each student should have a specific role. One asks the questions, one records the voice and one writes down the answers together with observations. They all have the questions written in front of them so that they can easily follow the discussion. Apart from the prewritten questions they must ask questions inspired by what they listen and ask as many times why as possible.

  1. Organise your insights.

After interviewing, the students will be confronted with a big load of information. To make use of it they first need to organise it. For this, they can use the empathy map.

Ask them to separate a big piece of paper into the five following fields:

1.    Environment. What is the major narrative in the community? What do different people say? What does the TV/influencers/social media say? What are the dangerous stereotypes?

2.    Say and DO. What are their stories? Attitude in public. Behaviour towards others. Appearance

3.   Think and Feel. What really counts? What are their actual beliefs? What are their actual emotions?

4.    Pain. What makes them afraid? What demotivates them? What worries them?

5.    Gain. What inspires them? Why would they act? What makes them happy?

Answer the first two questions starting with number 1. Write in post-its one by one your observations collected from all the interviews. You don’t have to write everything you heard and noticed but the most interesting and striking observations. It is best if you use different colour post-its depending on the quality of the observation. Yellow for the neutral remarks, pink for the negative and green for the positive ones. Put each post-it in the corresponding section.

When you have finished writing the actual information you collected, move to numbers 4, 5 and 6 and try to answer the questions drawing conclusions from your data. Make sure that you double-check your conclusions. Are the conclusions derived from the information you collected or are you simply repeating the assumptions you had already? Try to look for insights that feel new and help you see the topic from a different perspective. What unexpected patterns appear? If you have conflicting information you can choose to write them all down (on the second exercise you will choose the things that you believe that are common to create your MESAGE). Otherwise you can choose to put on the map only the information that are connected with one section of your audience 

  1. MESAGE>Create your design specifications.

The point of the Feel phase in STM is that we understand the problem we find important and empathise with other people so that we find a way to present it to them in an inspiring and effective way through a digital story. After the detailed analysis we did we can end this phase by defining the criteria (design specifications) we will use in the Imagine phase.

We will organise our criteria with an easy-to-remember acronym: MESAGE

Answer all the questions to create the list of design specifications you want your digital story to follow.

Message. Why are we making this story? What message do we want to convey?

Emotions. How do we want our audience to feel when watching our digital story? Detached, removed, helpless, or included, hopeful, powerful, inspired, or outraged?

Stereotypes. Which stereotypes should we avoid in our story? Whose point of view should we present to break the stereotypes?

Audience. Who is the target audience we want to influence with our story?

Go for it! How does our story call the audience to action? What kind of actions does it propose?

aEsthetics. What kind of feeling do we want our story to have? What kind of images and music will convey such a feeling?