For most of my career, I’ve been lucky to be able to experience and share many people’s stories around the world. Many of these remarkable stories have stayed with me until this day. I’ve filmed women in India, who were able to make a living by producing sanitary pads, while at the same time improving their own and other women’s health and wellbeing in their community. I filmed poor farmers in rural Ethiopia, who had started to build micro businesses, starting with just one chicken, one sewing machine, or one cow, in order to be able to support their family in a sustainable manner, rather than be dependent on aid. In Palestine, I made a film about women who were leading the way for other women to be brave and do the jobs they really wanted to do, even though it meant breaking deep-rooted societal norms.
What links all of these stories together is personal empowerment. All of the people in the films I made were in charge of their own lives, because they believed they could change their life for the better. I am sure all of them had to fight the naysayers during their plight, and it can’t have been easy to get up every morning and say to yourself 'I believe what I am doing is right and I’m going to make it happen.'
I believe that there is a lot of good in this world and a lot of positive people who believe they can make a change. It is unfortunate that our mainstream media seemingly wants us to think the opposite. Polarisation, fear and xenophobia are increasing in all of our societies and the media has a huge role to play.
Back in the day, when I started working as a documentary filmmaker, and was pitching stories to commissioning editors of TV channels, I often heard the question: ‘What is the flipside, where is the bad story?’ We know that disaster sells, sex sells and violence sells. Just take a look at newspaper headlines.
So why is it so important to tell a positive story? Beyond my personal views on the world I believe that positive, empowering stories can have huge educational value. This is also the basis on which Lyfta was founded. After many years of pondering about how the stories we choose to tell can make a real impact, we always came back to the same answer: Education. Stories are a powerful tool for learning.
Kids, who have watched Lyfta’s stories have said: ‘When I’m watching and interacting with the story, I can forget about school and actually start to learn.”
Teachers also see the value in using stories for learning. Just over a year ago, my colleagues and I visited one primary school in Ipswich, UK, where a teacher, after a Lyfta session in her classroom, said: ‘We need to make it real to them (pupils), we need to make it meaningful. I know this experience will stay with them, because they were just buzzing about it, and that’s what we need in every lesson.’
The kids she was talking about were between 7 and 10 years old. When asked questions about the content that they had just seen, the class answered every single question correctly and extremely eloquently. It was a memorable moment. I peered over my shoulder to see Michelle, the teacher, with tears in her eyes. She was visibly moved by her pupils’ engagement. Michelle tells us that her kids are still talking about it to this day.
These, and many other experiences in schools in the UK and Finland over the last year, have affirmed my belief that there can be a better world, and that we, the adults, have a responsibility to support the next generation to build a sustainable and peaceful future.
Our mission is to continue telling positive stories at Lyfta. I am so excited about our next project, which is all about how to make positive impact on the environment. We will tell inspirational stories from around the globe about people who have done something innovative in order to create a more sustainable life and society. We are building an immersive storyworld, where children can visit different people’s homes around the world in 360° and Virtual Reality, to discover how the use of everyday items impacts on the environment. We will also give them easy tools to measure their own consumption behaviour, and while doing that, make it possible to share their results with others. What’s even more exciting is that the project is co-created with kids. After all, it’s our home, our world.
The writer is a filmmaker, 360 storyteller, story innovation geek and Co-CEO at Lyfta.