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Calling all storytellers

Contest challenges students to show the impact of social sciences and humanities research
December 11, 2013
By Tom Peacock

Research for a Better Life: The Storytellers, a new competition sponsored by the Social Science and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC) of Canada, is currently seeking applicants.

It invites post-secondary students from across Canada to submit pitches promoting SSHRC-funded research projects at their institution. “What we're looking for is clarity in explaining the research, creativity in the way you explain it, and persuasive stories,” says SSHRC communications advisor David Holton.

Concordia grad Kendra Besanger’s “Talking Through the Ages” was one of 25 winning audio, video, text and infographic entries in last year’s inaugural challenge. The pitch made by Besanger, MA (Media  Studies) 13, describes Active Ageing Mobile Technologies — an initiative led by Concordia communications professor Kim Sawchuk and based at the university’s Mobile Media Lab.

Kendra Besanger Concordia grad Kendra Besanger won the 2013 SSHRC Storytellers challenge. | Courtesy of Kendra Besanger

As Sawchuck says, “The research is important because it overturns and questions the assumptions we have around generational divide and media.”

This time around, the deadline for submissions is January 15, 2014. Students who proffer the top 25 pitches take home a cash prize of $3,000, and an invitation to the communications workshop at the 2014 Congress of the Humanities and Social Sciences at Brock University in May. The prize includes the cost of registration, three nights' lodging at Congress and a slot in the Storytellers showcase event.

When Besanger won, she flew to Victoria for Congress.

Her own graduate research project was funded by SSHRC, but she decided to focus on the Mobile Media Lab’s larger work with seniors, technology and communication, since she felt it had more impact. She also participated on a related project called MemorySpace.

“The way that Kim explained it to me — the through-line that I took — is that we talk about gender, class and race, but age is missing,” Besanger says. “That was the thesis statement of my three-minute pitch: we need to bring age into our perspective when we do critical studies.”

Her advice to applicants? “Find research that is having an impact, and keep it simple. Don’t think about it too much: just get what you need and put something together. It’s worth it.”

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