Stories to Heal a City

Daniel Harris (People's District )
Location Marketing Bootcamp Yerba Buena Salon_10
Please note: to attend, your registration must include Location Marketing Bootcamp.

Washington, D.C. may be one of the nation’s most segregated cities. Ask many residents, and they will describe a nation’s capital divided by race, income, street, neighborhood, quadrant, local vs. federal, Democrats vs. Republicans, punk rock vs. go-go music, and the list goes on.

In September 2009, I set out to explore what connects the residents of Washington by interviewing one stranger every day. I wanted to draw out the texture of the city in the words of those who live and work here. At present, I have collected over 700 stories from almost every corner of the city, shared many of these stories on my website,, and built a school curriculum around place-based storytelling. The Washington Post calls me a “modern-day, electronic Studs Terkel,” and my work has been covered by, among others, The New York Times and NPR.

Most importantly, People’s District has started a movement that:

  1. Uses stories and storytelling to get people to connect with their neighbors both online and offline;
  2. Draws attention to the richness of a city’s stories and people by embedding narratives into physical spaces using street art, QR codes, near field technology, (and soon, augmented reality);
  3. Utilizes narratives to build marketing and PR campaigns for clients ranging from the Mayor’s Office to real estate developers to social service organizations; and
  4. Is expanding to other cities around the world.

The session explores how the collection, curation, and distribution of place-based stories is working to help bring the Nation’s Capital together, and offering support to some of its most vulnerable populations and areas. Using examples and case studies from my work in the District, I will present best practices, lessons learned, and a digital toolkit that other communities or brands can use to build place-based storytelling campaigns.

Photo of Daniel Harris

Daniel Harris

People's District

Danny Harris, a “modern-day Studs Terkel” according to the Washington Post, is the editor of People’s District, one of the District’s most innovative blogs. The site, dedicated to raising Washington, D.C.’s interest in itself and its people, shares the incredible stories and photos of the city’s diverse residents. Since launching in September 2009, Harris has interviewed over 700 people, and featured more than 400 of them on the site.

Harris’ work has been covered by, among others, The New York Times, Washington Post, NPR, NBC, Baltimore Examiner,, and from newspapers as far away as Austria and China. He also writes about storytelling and some of D.C.’s more colorful personalities for and DC Modern Luxury magazine, and is a regular contributor on News Channel 8’s Let’s Talk Live TV show.

A storyteller himself, Harris hosts a quarterly storytelling night, The Anecdote, and gives presentations on storytelling to universities, community, and business groups. At present, he is working with partners in a number of cities to start People’s District-style projects around the world. An honors graduate of Connecticut College, he also holds a Master’s Degree from Princeton University.

  • Esri
  • AT&T Interactive
  • Google
  • Nokia, Location & Commerce
  • Facebook
  • Bing
  • Control Group
  • Localeze
  • MyCityWay
  • Socrata
  • Urban Airship
  • MapQuest

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