Early into the film, “Who We Are Now – Joplin One Year Later,” it suddenly hits you. The people who you see on screen and who you first might think are “just like us” — are anything but. Instead they are survivors of a catastrophic tornado that hit this Missouri community in 2011, and whose stories are both an inspiration and a further call to action.
Produced by the Missouri Foundation for Health’s communications department, the film is the first in its 2012 “Reel Change” series, created to showcase its work to support the health and well-being of people throughout the state. As part of that effort, “Who Are We Now” shows how the foundation has been helping organizations and health providers work together to build a healthier community.
I didn’t get into the Communication field because I’m a numbers person. Words are my tools, not pixels or bytes or zeros and ones. Pie charts are interesting – when someone else explains them. Even spreadsheets make me uneasy. I’d rather write a narrative. But the Ford Foundation’s Change By Design conference I attended in New York City in late June may well have been a game-changer for me. For the first time I could really see how facts and figures – when put into the hands of designers, researchers, artists and statisticians– can pack a dramatic punch large enough to have a room full of foundation veterans oohhing and aahhing.
The event featured leaders in the fields of design, social innovation, art, and journalism, all of whom are thinking creatively about digital storytelling. During the day-long event presenters shared case studies on topics ranging from experiential data visualization to data for news reporting to collaborative mapping. It was a day of inspiration more than it was a day of skill-building. It was a profound shift in your thinking kind of day. I left feeling like I’d seen the future of social change. And the future, let me just say, is information design.