The Role of “Curators” in Social Good Communications
These days, the possibilities for social good communications work are more numerous, and more interesting, than ever before. With powerful computers in the hands of average citizens, there are infinite opportunities for storytelling. Selfies, tweets, art, and music circle the globe daily, and each day, these stories travel faster and farther than the day before.
This idea that endless storytelling opportunities are always at our fingertips was a recurring theme at this year’s Social Good Summit. Sponsored by Mashable, the United Nations Foundation, the United Nations Development Programme, and the 92Y, the summit is an annual gathering to discuss how to unlock the potential for technology and new media to achieve the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals by 2030.
In addition to being a hot spot for human rights-oriented celebrities (hey, Whoopi Goldberg!), the summit is a glimpse into the future of social good communications. Each year, the gathering invites us to “imagine 2030 now”. So what does the future of social good look like now that we have unlimited potential for storytelling? What does that potential mean for communicators in the business of social good, like Fenton and our peers who help find, shape and distribute these stories?
It means our job is more important than ever.
“What to look at and how to see it”
One of the most thought-provoking speakers at the summit was Deray McKesson, one of the leading civil rights activists of our time and a prominent voice for the Movement for Black Lives. In his trademark blue vest, McKesson discussed what freedom can look like in 2030 and the role of social media in making this vision a reality.
McKesson laid out what the future of social good communications looks like, “Social media helps us fight against erasure [because it] flattened what the world looks like in terms of who became storytellers. But in a world in which everyone is a content creator, the most important people will be the curators.”
He argued that curators are important because they tell people “what to look at and how to see it.” As social good communicators, our role is to fight against erasure by elevating the messages that need to be heard and framing the stories that deserve to told. In short, we’re curators of tremendous fights for justice, health, and equality. And at a moment when facts can be discredited with a single claim of “fake news,” when audiences can scroll past stories they simply do not want to hear, and when we repeatedly disassociate into our “bubbles” even as technology tethers us closer together, the role of the curator becomes all the more important.
“What do we say when the whole world is watching?”
The summit highlighted the diversity of curators that exist. In response to the Trump inauguration, the design lab Amplifier asked itself, “What do we say when the whole world is watching?” This question led them to partner with artists to develop the “We the People” campaign, and chances are, if you attended the Women’s March in January, you were holding one of their curated pieces. All of the art developed through Amplifier’s partnerships is free and open source, and by making it so, the organization helped curate stories by making them as accessible as possible.
Open source material is just one type of story curation. Sometimes storytellers become curators simply because there are so few people to do so. This was the case with Khaled Khatib, cinematographer and press officer for the White Helmets, which rescues civilians from sites of violence throughout Syria. The White Helmets, also known as the Syrian Civil Defence, have saved more than 99,000 Syrians since 2011.
When Connie Britton (yes, that Connie Britton) asked 22-year-old Khatib why he decided to film the work of the group, he described standing next to a journalist as they were filming the aftermath of a massacre and then watching that footage featured on that night’s news. Khatib said that he had witnessed the power of journalism in elevating untold stories and has since partnered with Netflix to transform his first-person footage into an Oscar-nominated documentary about the conflict.
The future of social good curators
There has never been more opportunity, or responsibility, to serve as curators.
Technology has brought us the ability to tell personal stories at a speed and reach greater than we ever thought possible. With endless opportunities for content creation, we have a role in making sure those stories don’t get lost, to fight against erasure, and to lift up stories in their most truthful, engaging, and human way. At Fenton, we’re honored to partner with other do-gooders as communicators and curators, and we’ve never been more excited about the potential for technology to help us do so.