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A Film + Story Telling Project: A New Learning Resource for Young People to Find their Voice and Make Change in their Communities

To use story telling + film making to inspire young people 12-18 around the world to tell their stories and make change in their communities

Photo of cynthia guyer
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  • A collaboration of a creative film making/story telling and a global youth and education nonprofit.

Tell us about your idea

One thing we have all learned in these first intense three months of learning-from-home during the Coronavirus quarantine, is how uninspired distance learning resources are, as well as missing important links to how young people can really engage and feel empowered through virtual learning content. 

BYKids, a nonprofit that helps young people (12 - 19) around the world makes amazing, powerful short 20 minute films about critical issues facing their communities; like the climate crisis, hate and discrimination --- around race, background, gender, religion or sexual orientation, and Global Dignity, which works with parents, teachers and community based youth leaders in 80 countries around the world, have come together to design and implement a new initiative to create and distribute a new series of short films by young people, with wrap around educational and learning resources and prompts, to inspire hundreds of thousands of young people to find their own voice, sense of dignity and self worth, and to tackle issues that they care about in their own communities. 

Global Dignity has reached over 3.4 million young people through its Teaching Dignity Workshops, not only in classrooms and schools, but also working with community-based youth groups and in refugee camps. We aim to be working in 100 countries by 2021.  

Together with BYKids, we will work to get their 15 current youth-created, powerful films shared with our growing network of parent, teacher, education and youth leaders around the world now and through the months ahead when millions of young people are learning from home and not able to attend school. 

Secondly, we will use the next several months (June - August) to work with a number of the most creative and visionary education leaders we know and work with to  design a longer term virtual and distance learning initiative based on this story telling and film model that will be a powerful resource for teachers, parents, youth leaders and young people, even when schools are open again in 2021.  Leaders like Ken Robinson, who is back in London and forming a new organization, Boundless, to tackle this same challenge. (#1 TED Talk of all time: Ken's talk on Creativity and Imagination in Education.)

This initial moment of crisis for teaching and learning around the world, because of the Coronavirus, with 1 billion young people out of school, has put a spotlight on the need to dramatically improve the quality of the virtual learning resources.  Our focus in not on the core academic skills, but rather on young people's confidence in their own talents and voice, their sense of hope and vision for the future, social and emotional learning, ethics, values and global citizenship.

Finally, we will be reaching out to an innovative middle school here in New York City that is part of the XQ High School Initiative of the Emerson Collective, to test our initial ideas and approach to how best to align these new virtual learning resources into the school curriculum, as well as our Partner Organization, Beaconhouse Schools, in Pakistan, which is educating over 300,000 children and young people in 5 Middle East nations.

What part(s) of the pre-COVID school system do you wish to leave in the past? Why?

There are a number of major challenges that the K-12 education system faces, both in the United States but also around the world. Our collaboration will specifically address: 1. The lack of really engaging and creative curriculum and learning resources that cover topics such as: A. Ethics and values. B. Dignity: finding your own voice, sense of self worth, hope about the future. C. Dignity: how young people honor and see the dignity in others, no matter the difference in the color of their skin, their religion, background, gender, etc. How to understand and accept others who are different. D. Learning how to be Changemakers in their own communities: Global Citizenship. E. Conflict Resolution and Peace Education 2. Distance Learning Resources that are Uninspired and Not Creative or Engaging We believe that the key to powerful digital on-line learning (and teaching) resources on the topics above are both story telling, and using film and video. There also needs to be simple learning materials that are flexible and can be adapted by diverse cultures around the world, but that give simple and clear guidance on how best to use the BYKids films and stories, to get deep engagement and deep learning. 3. Beyond the Place we call Schools: The Challenges that Young Displaced People and Out of School Youth Face around the World. Beyond the hundreds of millions of children and young people who are currently out-of-school and doing their best to learn-from-home, there are over 258 million living in poor communities or refugee camps where there are no schools. Our Bangladesh Global Dignity Country Chair tells us that she is working in in the Rohingya Camps where 500,000 of the almost 1 million refugees are children and young people. We believe that if we design this Initiative with these young people around the world in mind, that we can design a set of powerful new learning resources that are relevant to the enormous challenges they face as well as young people, teachers and school leaders in every nation's education K-12 system.

Tell us a little bit about yourself and what inspired you to share this idea.

Global Dignity, our colleagues at BYKids, with our respective networks of leaders and allies in now 80 countries around the world, had already been talking together in the past year about combining our resources to co-design a powerful new set of virtual learning resources to be used by teachers, school leaders, school systems and networks, as well as by community-based youth groups and nonprofit youth leaders. 

Both non profits share the mission of working to help young people tap into their own self worth and value, to believe in their ability to make a difference in the world and to have hope about the future. And, to treat others with understanding and compassion, countering the hate and discrimination that comes from being afraid of others with a different skin color, religion, gender, sexual orientation or background. And finally, to see themselves as global citizens and change makers, willing to think about, understand and tackle the issues facing their own communities and our world.

Both organizations are in turn connected to other powerful teacher and learning networks, education leaders who are open to adopting new content in the area of social and emotional learning, ethics and values, global citizenship and human rights. 

Together, we know that there currently is a dearth of powerful virtual learning content and curriculum in this area - again, our expertise is not with the core academic subjects.  We are determined to combine our expertise, connections, and networks to develop a powerful set of new teaching and learning resources in the virtual, distance-learning space.

Where are you located?

We are global nonprofits. Both BYKids and Global Dignity have Home Offices in New York City. To learn more about our work: Last year we reached over 1.1 million children and young people through our "Teaching Dignity" workshops and curriculum in 80 + countries. BYKids has created 2 seasons of powerful films and stories made by young people 13 - 17. Five new films are being produced now for Season 3. The mission is to inspire conversations and action around global issues of dignity, our shared humanity and social justice.


Join the conversation:

Photo of ana torralba

Love this iniative! would love to hear more as I am currently leading a education project about empowering young people to make (climate) change in Europe and beyond

Photo of Cynthia Guyer

Hi: love to connect. My email is Take a look at our website too. Next week could work, send me a note so we can find a time for a WhatsApp call.

Photo of Holly Carter

Also happy to connect. My email is and our climate change film we did in Nicaragua: