Today, thousands of stories are being told regardless of who tells them and how they are told. Many of these stories lack authenticity, transparency, or are driven by ulterior motives which serve a predetermined narrative. These are just some of the few obstacles that get in the way of honest, wholesome and dignified storytelling within development and humanitarian contexts. In order for a piece – be it visual, written or spoken – to reach an audience, it goes through a long process of filtration, revising and editing that sometimes alters the original content and makes it almost fictional. This in turn, ends up painting the wrong picture of the contributors who oftentimes are not aware of where their stories, visual or written, will be displayed and to what purpose will they be used.
Dignified Storytelling grew out of the need for additional resources to help storytellers and organizations shift to partnership-based storytelling practices and to tell fuller, more nuanced stories that prioritize human dignity – our inherent value and worth as human beings. It is supported by Dubai Cares, Expo 2020 Dubai, and the UAE Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation (MOFAIC), alongside strategic partners including the African Union, League of Arab States and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), as well as key advisors and a strong network of alliance members.
Today, Dignified Storytelling is working towards fostering a common understanding of how storytelling can uphold the dignity of all persons. It is actively uniting the voices of content makers, editors, journalists, photographers, filmmakers, contributors, storytellers, and those working with them, to agree and create guidance on storytelling practices that upholds the dignity of all persons and creates a positive environment.
The ten Dignified Storytelling Principles work together to describe, or define, “dignified storytelling.” The Principles have been developed through consultations with storytellers and communication experts as well as the existing literature around ethical storytelling and communications in development. The Dignified Storytelling Principles help guide storytellers towards storytelling that is grounded in deep respect, full transparency, and social responsibility.
These foundational principles have guided the development of an accessible and practical Dignified Storytelling Handbook which provides ‘how-to’ guidance and concrete best practice case studies. Cross-sectoral perspectives and insights from a diverse group of storytellers and experienced stakeholders from governments, UN agencies, international and local NGOs, and civil society have informed this valuable framework and resource.
However, Dignified Storytelling goes well beyond a set of principles and a handbook. Over the longer-term, Dignified Storytelling will create an environment of positivity that strengthens long-term relationships between the public, private, development and humanitarian sectors by placing dignified and ethical storytelling at the epicenter of knowledge sharing, stakeholder engagement, and capacity development to inspire and inform storytellers.