Digital Do Good
Digital technology has enabled new, creative platforms that allow the sharing of stories for good, for inspiration, in ways which were not possible before.Three entities: Our Better World, SG Film channel and Singaporean of the Day are new digital platforms that perpetuate good through positive narratives.
By Audrina Gan with additional reporting by Melissa De Silva
or 10 years, Sri Lestari was confined to her home after a motorcycle accident left her paralysed from the chest down at the age of 23. “I felt unhappy,unproductive and really depressed,”she recalls. Then, inspired by a disabled friend on a modified motorcycle, she decided to get one herself.
“When I got my modified motorcycle,my life changed,” says the 39-year-oldwho relishes the freedom of being able to “go everywhere” by herself again.
This year, she completed a 1,200kmroad trip from Jakarta to Bali in an effort to demonstrate that the disabled can live independent, productive and happy lives, and to inspire other disabled people in Indonesia to do the same.
Sri’s story was broadcast on Our Better World (OBW), a digital initiative of the Singapore International Foundation that brings together the magic of inspiring stories from around Asia and the power of inspired peoplein this region, to do good. OBW(ourbetterworld.org) uses text, photo essays and videos to help individuals and organisations involved in social causes.
Those inspired by Sri’s video on OBW could contribute to a fund-raising campaign she started on Indiegogo, an online crowd-funding platform for just about any cause. And within a month, she had the $4,500 she needed for the trip.
OBW will be releasing several webisodes of Sri’s road trip at ourbetterworld.org in October, with highlights including how the paraplegic goes surfing for the first time and how she encourages others with disabilities to challenge their own boundaries.
The idea behind OBW, explains Joshua Lye, its head of content, is to “to give people a viable, credible option to watch videos or read stories that are inspiring… and have opportunities to help within reach.”
In under a year, OBW has gathered a 12,000 strong community. It is hoped that stories told on OBW will spur people to take positive action. Lye says, “We hope that by relating digital stories, those inspired can act on their initiatives. And as technology continues to evolve, so anyone seeking to engage an audience must also continually evolve. But whether it’s a platform we’ve had a glimpse of or something no one’s quite imagined yet,we think there’ll always be a need for content that engages and inspires.”
Spotlight on Singaporeans
Another digital avenue that propagates inspiring stories is Singaporean of the Day(). When results of a 2012 Gallup Poll asserted that Singaporeans are unemotional,animated conversations erupted in coffee shops, virtual chat rooms and across mobile devices in Singapore and beyond. It prompted founder Jeff Cheong to ask if we Singaporeans had lost our sense of humour, our ability to smile and hope.
That sparked the inception of Singaporean of the Day. Cheong got together his advertising agency colleagues: Jasmine Moh, Herbert Pradjaja and Lim Si Ping — all story tellers, to document video stories of ordinary Singaporeans with extraordinary tales. They set up a Vimeo page in late 2012, and have since produced 25 video vignettes.
The idea behind OBW is to “to give people a viable,credible option to watch videos or read stories that are inspiring… and have opportunities to help within reach.”
– Joshua Lye, Head of Content, Our Better World
“With every story told, we learned anew lesson. Our intention is to convey that inspiration and replicate that experience in the video for our viewers,” says Cheong. “When we share videos ofa person’s life, people get excited and can’t wait to watch another episode.It’s like watching a drama series. People do not know that Singaporeans are passionate about the things they do.Through sharing, we learnt that there are many passionate and interesting people around us,” adds Cheong. His team feels they are succeeding in encouraging people to be more positive and happy.
75-year-old Aunty Mary lives by the motto of‘people needs people’.
Netizens like ‘Heidi’ appreciate the little seen perspective conveyed by these videos. He says, “the project helps foreigners who view Singapore as a soulless and sterile place to look beyond skyscrapers and people in suits.Locals also need this to realise that their lives are not defined by structural landscapes.”
One video, in particular, left a deep impression on the team — despite collapsing twice, heart patient ‘Aunty Mary’ is an active 75-year-old volunteer who still visits the elderly living alone.Although she now wears a pacemaker,‘Aunty Mary’ continues to help others.She says, “I’ve gone through a lot of ups and downs. When I reflected on my life,I realised how blessed I am and I would like to give my services to others around me, especially the elderly. Old doesn’t mean you have to stop learning or helping others. People need people and I want to encourage those around me to do the same.”
Another innovative avenue that capitalises on the human attraction to dramatic narratives is SG Film Channel(www.youtube.com/sgfilmchannel). The Singapore Film Commission launched this YouTube channel in February this year to drive appreciation and awareness of Singapore films. Besides short films of under 30-minutes, the channel also broadcasts movie trailers by local film directors.
Jeff Cheong (squatting) together with Herbert Pradjaja, Lim Si Ping and Jasmine Moh created ‘Singaporean of the Day’, comprising videos of Singaporeans from all walks of life talking about their lives and dreams. One of them, Philip Chew, seen here with his wife, Mary, blogs about his ancestor Singaporean pioneer Chew Joo Chiat.
A scene from When We Were Bengs which explores the lives and quirks of the ‘Bengs’ of Singapore, shown on SGFilm Channel.
Yeo Chun Cheng, Director of the Singapore Film Commission says, “Short films are an important stepping stone for many of our filmmakers, for it is where they cut their teeth. The SGFilm Channel extends their reach beyond physical spaces and fosters greater audience engagement through social media platforms.” Kenneth Quek, Assistant Director of NBDCS says that the digital medium is immediate and far reaching because the Internet can transform online stories into multiple global online forums.
Keluar Baris or Homecoming, a short film by Boo Jun feng,which depicts an 18-year-old’s struggle between national duties and personal liberty.
SGFilm Channel is curated and managed by Objectifs: Centre for Photography and Film. It aims to showcase 50 short films in its first year,with at least 10 titles released every quarter. Earlier films featured include award-winning titles such as Keluar Baris (Homecoming) by Boo Jun feng as well as defining ones such as Anthony Chen’s noteworthy short film Ah Ma,(“Grandmother” in Chinese) which was in competition at the 60th Cannes Film Festival in 2007.
“People do not know that Singaporeans are passionate about the things they do. Through sharing, we learnt that there are many passionate and interesting people around us.”
– Jeff Cheong, Founder, Singaporean of the Day
Such platforms have been long in the waiting,say viewers like netizen ‘Qiyong’ who feels Boo’s recent movie release deserves much more recognition. “The emotions,the contradictions, the reflections brought by the actors are so intense, so real, beyond spoken words,”he adds. Charmaine To hof Objectifs, says, “SGFilm Channel gives Singaporeans an alternative platform to tell local stories.” Since its inception, Singapore films have reached a much wider audience with the channel generating more than 85,000 views.
Given the Internet’s viral prowess that propagates information organically, digital storytelling empowers individuals, communities and organisations with unlimited opportunities to build emotional empathy in people and to inspire them to do good.
Social sites and digital platforms have become the new creative direction to share and encourage good deeds. These anecdotes not only edify, educate and entertain us; they have the ability to evoke a powerful multiplier effect for good.
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ISSUE 2015 JAN-MAR
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