Scale is your friend, how to create impact and drive difference, big time.
Scale is your friend, diversity is the driver, and collaborations, creativity and communities are your champions. This is a story about storytelling, Applied Storytelling as I’ll explain and creating impact.
You know this, but its execution can be the issue. It’s also a story of innovation, but first something about me the writer, since we’ve never met before.
I spent my secondary/ high school years growing up in Ghana in the 70s/80s in a boarding school, with a respected cadet wing. From this, community is a quality as clear to me as family. It nurtures a deep trust, ally ship and selflessness.
We learned the importance of fashioning ideas and respect through the collective and individual. The word “we” is often used in Ghanaian vocabulary ( twi), to indicate the importance of the collective.
The corollary is the term “amanfo” loosely translated as you’re one of us. Hence whether you’re an alumni from 2021 or 1982 we refer to each as “senior”, or otherwise amanfo.
That’s the starting position we emerge from, making empathy a transitive logic, which envelops storytelling.
Necessity is indeed the mother of invention. Hence even though I studied Applied Chemistry, I secretly yearned to be a writer. In my second year at Uni I would get the opportunity and the enquiry which increasingly began to make sense was, if you could apply practical experimental insights into theoretical science, why couldn’t you do the same, with the equivalent creative rigour to storytelling, with one major caveat in mind.
Most scientific discoveries are eliminative. A new theory over rides a previous one. However, in the humanities theories are often complimentary, working alongside each other. Interpretive findings it becomes clear from previous practitioners are resistant to anonymity.
Sometimes so much so that practices that should be jettisoned because they’ve atrophied, because a society has altered, linger. Hence moving into media, I never really believed there were boundaries.
This could be express in one of my promos made to frame new models of storytelling at the International Journalism Festival in Perugia in 2012, after interviewing some of the best storytellers around.
Just then as compounds could exists in different states, it seemed natural that media as a conglomerate was in different states dynamically fluxed with one another.
Frankly they’re all ones and zeros, as a new podcast in 2012 oscillating between audio, visuals and narrative, illustrated working across genre nationally and internationally. Applied Chemistry had a kith and kin in Applied Storyteller, such as:
- Journalism, News & Videojournalism
- Creative directing in advertising and filmmaking with ex-Saatchi head.
- Being involved in startups. I was launch editor of Justgiving.com and reactive, and travelled extensively training scores of students/ companies how to build/code for 20 years.
- Working deeply with diversity, inclusion and representation
I consider myself fortunate that my work has attracted wide acclaim from several international figures and bodies, though this has by no means an easy, smooth acquisition.
Reviews include: the BBC Director of Digital Development, James Montgomery; Pulitzer’s Prize winner Jan Schaffer; Jon Snow from Channel 4 News, NewsXchange; the government (DCMS), ITN, Jon Staton former head of TV at Saatchi and Saatchi, and UK leading entrepreneurs like Lee Robertson.
In this link I list the things they’ve said and assignments this summer which include working with Google on their Innovation fund and a diversity and inclusion summit with leader experts in the UK. Them there’s Applied Storytelling!
In 1994, I attended one of the most memorable events in Atlanta with British friends. It exhibited everything I’m about to express in this post. Ambition and scale can often seem a dirty word, but in media and creativity it’s central. That’s something the Southbank Centre’s Artistic Director of the Southbank Centre shared with us ( a community) when I was a South bank Artist in Resident.
People’s attention in a saturated media environment is piqued by scale often achieved by bringing together communities — lots of people — or by the physical size, boldness and depth of a project.
Projects embracing EDI have this as their métier in attracting broad audiences. A strong aesthetic, collaboration and scale were often at the forefront of programmes undoing inequality and bolstering representation, diversity and inclusion.
The concept of scale in the late 90s propelled a group of us to bring the media industry together in the late 90s. Here we could build allies and with resilience and drive create a number of impactful projects.
Yet work in EDI goes back to the early 90s presenting on the BBC; thirty years on it’s part of a new project derived from invaluable archive of the show deemed historical important. It’ll be presented at conference in November 2022 looking at the BBC from 1922–2022.
The Leaders’ List was an epic project modelled on the iconic photograph A Great day in Harlem in which 57 of the US’ leading Jazz Musicians gathered for a photoshoot by freelance photographer Art Kane for Esquire magazine in 1958.
We created a modern day version — digital super selfie of 57 of the UK’s leading Black and brown TV producers. It attracted UK wide attention including this letter from the secretary of state, was Read Broadcast magazine article
Amongst the many projects at the Southbank Centre, this visual essay on poet and later Chancellor of Manchester University Lemn Sissay remains a favourite. As does President Barack Obama’s 100 Days at the festival hall scored and conducted by Prof. Shirley Thompson OBE. The story behind this still gives me goose pimples when, I was almost beaten for producing it and a Washington Post editor had Pete Souza (Obama’s photographer) ring me.
Collaborations, being creativity, working in communities is a great jump off point to create scale and impact. There are internal dynamics in the design and systems approach, but based on my experiences these can be set in place once the philosophy is embedded.
Forty years on, that community from Ghana which has fostered collaboration and creativity should with co-creative attributes finally get the story of impact treatment.
A new media diversity journal is equally an exemplar of collaboration and scale. In 2019 I aired an idea to a community I had become a part of. We met a number of times, driven by Marcus Ryder MBE looking at a number of germane ideas, such as a brain trust.
What though if we created a journal? Its impact would be obvious and the Vice Chancellor of my University, Cardiff University, understood that too. Over the course of a year of collaboration between the Sir Lenny Henry Centre for Media Diversity and co-founders Prof Diane Kemp and Marcus Ryder, and a stellar editorial team of academics the Journal, Representology was born. You can read about it here as well as a download a copy
The space between academia and commercial is the prairie that remains largely untouched.
If you’re interested in joint co-creations, or speaking about producing ideas of scale, please do drop me a line at Gyimahd@cardiff.ac.uk. You can read more details of my work in various academic books and publications e.g. The Economist where and speaking engagements in this list that includes the BFI and Sheffield docs.
Reimagining Journalism in a Post-Truth World by US journalist-professor Ed Madison and Ben DeJarnette was released 2018.
And from the various links below
You can contact me here @viewmagazine or david(at)Viewmagazine(dot)com
A Ghanaian-Brit, he was voted one of the top 40 most influential Ghanaians abroad by the Ghana High commissioned backed-Ghana Abroad.
Andrew Brown, Editor, of Powerhouse (brother of Gordon Brown, Prime Minister of the UK) was my editor in a small team of producers covering the general election covering.
Delegates at SXSW and the ONA .
Your harshest critic is the audience to whom you have only a few minutes to build a relationship. They either like you or they don’t.
Delegates at the ONA ( New York)
On @Medium I’m recognised as one of their top 10 global writers on journalism amongst its 100m active users, and a judge for the UK’s highest TV News awards, The RTS ( Royal Television Awards). Last year I was chair of the organising committee for Cardiff University’s international conference on the future of news. I was recently profiled by the Creative Industries Federations.