• Impact100Melb

Site Visit - 100 Story Building

Updated: Jun 19, 2018

Donors and committee members had a great site visit today with one of our four finalists, 100 Story Building. Their mission is to help kids, many of whom are from marginalised or disadvantaged backgrounds, to develop literacy skills, confidence and a sense of belonging which will enable them to succeed at whatever they choose to do.

We were absolutely inspired by the enthusiasm of the 100 Story Building team, especially Lachlann who explained the programs and showed us around the space. As you can see, it’s bright, welcoming and full of exciting and interesting things to look at – not just all the books, but interesting shaped lightglobes, framed cartoons drawn by kids who’ve gone through the program, and of course the mysterious entry to the rest of the 99 storeys. Lachlann explained that one of the keys to their work is to give the kids enough to spark their imaginations, while making sure they don’t get too distracted.

100 Story Building was formally launched just over a year ago, but some very serious planning has gone into their development. The intention is to operate as a social enterprise, gradually becoming less dependent on philanthropic funding and able to generate income to support their core business. They are looking at offering several income-generating activities – including teacher professional development, and writing workshops for people who want to write childrens’ books – all of which are intrinsically linked to their core business of helping kids to develop literacy skills, confidence and sense of belonging.

100 Story Building is a centre for young writers, but it’s far more than that. Lachlann explained the range of services they offer and how they operate, but before going into that I wanted to show you some of the space they occupy.

One of my first surprises was that the building is so accessible – it fronts onto the Nicholson Street mall in Footscray, and has a full shopfront with a friendly, welcoming appearance. The decision to situate the studio in the mall was taken after a feasibility study. It’s accessible, welcoming and within walking distance of many schools in the area. Rather than being hidden away in a faceless corporate building, it looks like a place that wants people to come inside – and in fact several locals came in to just find out what the place was about while we were visiting.

At the far end of the building is the entrance to the other 99 storeys of the 100 Story Building. We decided it would be a bit scary to descend to the unexplored 99 levels below, but we got to admire the entrance!

We also got to see the board where the other 99 storeys leave their notices. Looks as if a llama has escaped, and there’s plenty of weeding to be done in the vegie patch…

As you can see, a great deal goes on here, and there are many stories to tell. That’s where the young people who use 100 Story Building services come in.

100 Story Building believes in the power of literacy to transform lives. They manage to engage marginalised young people, their families and their schools through programs delivered both for school groups and after school.

Lachlann showed us some samples of the projects done in the school groups. Schools participating in the Smarter Schools National Partnerships are eligible for free workshops and subsidised bus travel; others pay $4 per student. There are also free after-school programs, including book club and writing clubs.

Comics are a great way for kids to get involved in telling their stories; they’re familiar with the format, and they work well for kids whose level of English language or of literacy is not high. Lachlann explained that some of the kids come up with some very sophisticated plots, while we marvelled at the bar codes and trade quotes on the backs of some of these publications. Apparently some are bestsellers :)

While most of the students participating are of primary school age, Lachlann told us they’re talking to high schools as well – and some teenagers who’d been through the preliminary programs now want to come back and volunteer to work with the younger kids. Volunteers are an important part of the 100 Story Building program; currently they have about 200 registered. Lachlann was expecting a group for volunteer training this afternoon after we left.

Building works with professional authors who give their time and expertise, and one of the important learnings they share is that it takes a lot of time, and a lot of people, to end up with a great book that people like to read. On the wall they have some framed pages from works by several of the authors they work with, showing how the editing process works and how creative the input of an editor can actually be.

One of the 100 Story Building past projects is Early Harvest – a children’s issue of harvestmagazine – which brought together a group of 14 upper primary students, and provided them with mentoring and workshops to act as the magazine’s editorial board. They did the whole editorial process, from calling for submissions to selecting and editing stories and commissioning artists. The resulting magazine showcases both the popular, established authors and illustrators and the up-and-coming young ones!

There’s also a mini recording studio on site and you can see some of the great storytelling projects recorded here on the 100 Story Building website. Inviting them to “share a story” with their kids and others is a good way to engage parents, some of whom have had negative experiences with schools themselves or who come from cultures where there are different cultural expectations of schools and teachers.

100 Story Building have only been in the Footscray space since September. The coming year will be their first full year of program delivery and they will be doing some intensive evaluation of their programs – as well as having a great time delivering them if Lachlann’s enthusiasm is anything to go by!

Thank you to 100 Story Building for making us so welcome during our visit!


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