About Outer Voices

Outer Voices creates media to increase awareness of community wisdom and the power of change by amplifying first-person stories that are connected to place.

In 2003 Outer Voices was a brand new idea, freshly hatched, with a plan to create a series of audio profiles on women leaders from remote parts of the world. The idea was to bring their fresh ideas and voices to American ears, not just as great radio content, but also to expose these leaders as innovators, with unique solutions to their own community’s problems.

I proposed six profiles, drawing from a wide net of women activists working around the world.

What I said was this:

“In keeping with the words of Aung San Suu Kyi, the democratically elected leader of Burma, Outer Voices pursues its mission in the knowledge that women who work in their own regions, on behalf of their own communities, can effect lasting, non-violent social change. Now more than ever, women are indeed speaking out and taking leadership in turning the tide of violent conflict. And now more than ever, women around the globe are pioneering new and effective models for grassroots, non-violent social change and cultural preservation.”

I was a radio newbie – an unseasoned producer, but backed by a formidable team of radio giants. Ford Foundation accepted the challenge, and with the seed money they provided, we got underway. After twelve years of producing and fundraising and producing and broadcasting, we’ve continued that work, far beyond our original commitment to six stories, and taking much longer than our original plan of doing this all in two years.

Often, we were the only western media working in a given area, and we quickly learned that every story we told was just scratching the surface. So we would return, and in some cases we’d return more than once to see how the stories were continuing to unfold, and we would continue to write and record.

Our way of doing radio became a form of witnessing social change, and perhaps even more, we witnessed the very personal and intimate changes of the people we recorded, as they unfolded their stories to the microphone.

As of this writing we have produced nine in depth hour-long radio documentaries about women changemakers of all stripes. We also created long lasting friendships with the women who we have profiled, their families, their colleagues, and their communities.

Our work has regularly brought us well out of cell phone and internet range, and over the years we’ve gotten to know a thing or two about how to record in some of the most extreme physical conditions. And working together and alone in these situations, we’ve learned a thing or two about ourselves.

Spending long periods of time in places that are still really not a part of our modern world changes a person. By necessity, you begin to see a broader landscape. Slowly it becomes exceedingly clear – the one woman you’re there to talk to is actually an integral part of a larger pattern of her society and culture and the landscape at large.

These extraordinary women’s stories are our foundation, and we will continue to add to their stories. It’s an infinite pool, the women who change things, and they are all over the world.

And so for our next move, we’re putting on a wider lens, looking at a bigger picture, listening with a different ear. We’re growing to be able to embrace that larger landscape and the people within it.

Thanks for joining us.

Stephanie Guyer-Stevens


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