Changemakers on Film: Constructive Visual Storytelling

The immersive power of observational, character driven documentaries is undeniable. So is the power of solution oriented storytelling, in providing a nuanced window into the efforts of changemakers around the world. Why not combine the both? This year’s Global Reporting Summit creates a space for discussing all facets of constructive and impactful storytelling, including why we need more short docs with a solutions approach.


At One World Media, we are great supporters of solutions oriented storytelling. We’ve been exploring all the exciting developments in this field, and continuously thinking how we can incorporate more of this approach into our work at different levels.

Through the Awards, Fellowship, Global Short Docs Forum, and our events through the year, we’ve had an increasing focus on highlighting pieces of media that bring us stories of people who are responding to problems in their communities. We had wonderful pieces come through our Women’s Solutions Reporting Award, and our dedicated GSDF edition in 2023.

As we researched good examples and had a better understanding of the existing landscape, we soon realised there was a gap in the solution journalism efforts across the world, especially in the visual storytelling field, and particularly in the global south. Though there are more and more news reports and explainer videos, there is a scarcity of – and yet a growing appetite for – solution oriented short documentaries.

There is an encouraging rise in the constructive coverage of stories from the global south in print, multimedia and audio formats, but there are still very few trainings around the world that focus on visual storytelling with a solutions approach. Reporter led videos provide a snappy and informative picture of a solution being implemented, with evidence and insights. Yet they heavily rely on the journalist to talk us through it all, alongside other testimonials and/or infographics.

While these are very effective in conveying the message, we cannot deny the magic of observational, character driven stories in immersing the audience in a different world – and how this can be a very powerful experience in understanding the nuances of a story more organically. There are increasing outlets and channels looking for short documentaries with strong central characters, an engaging narrative arc, and an empowering approach which cuts through the disheartening effects of heartbreaking current affairs.

So why not make such documentaries with a solutions approach?

While there are brilliant trainers in constructive storytelling, and inspiring documentary filmmakers who are perfecting their craft, there is currently limited intersection of the two worlds. As we started talking more about this in our GSDF programme in the past year, we came across beautiful films where the filmmakers have turned the lens on changemakers who are tackling an ongoing problem. These have been an inspiration for developing more projects through the Forum, some of which we are showcasing at the Summit.

As part of GSDF Labs, we spotlighted a range of films: While Dancing through Gunshots in Brazil’s Favelas focuses on a single individual’s determination to help troubled communities through dance, Emmy winner Get Away from the Target follows a crowded rescue vessel that leaves Libya, operated by Doctors Without Borders. With varying scales of jeopardy and differing visual styles, both films present engaging cases for thinking about people and organisations who are determined to help their communities, against all odds.

No effort is perfect, there are always limitations and challenges to each and every response, yet there is so much to learn from every attempt, and lessons to take away across borders. We’ll be talking about how filmmakers can develop and pitch such stories, as part of our Summit session Changemakers on Film: Constructive Visual Storytelling.

This year at the Global Reporting Summit, we have a range of sessions focusing on impactful stories that are creating a ripple effect, and how a constructive approach can help us talk about difficult issues and global challenges with a fresh take. The expectation is not that the journalists solve all the problems of our world themselves, but that they turn their gaze towards people who are already making way, and bring us into their world to share their passion, insights, perhaps their frustration, and always their determination.

We are excited to contribute to existing efforts around the globe to change narratives, challenge stereotypes, and support powerful storytelling that empowers everyone who’s committed to creating a fairer and more sustainable world. This year’s Summit brings together people who are all dedicated to this cause, across genres, topics and geographies. We cannot wait to hear where these conversations will take us.

Register for the Summit to join the discussion.