Digital storytelling is an arts-based research method that uses different digital tools and media to share personal stories and bring narratives to life. The art of positive digital storytelling has been mastered by The Social Impact Artists, an organization that is focused on being the “bridge that connects the city with the community.”
By launching community engagement projects and profiling the positive transformation of local communities through documentary-style films, The Social Impact Artists are hoping to create a better social world, one story at a time.
Evette De Luca launched The Social Impact Artists with her husband Piero in 2016, combining her background in the social impact sector with his career in filmmaking and production.
“Social impact means any improvement in a community that addresses social determinants of health and root causes of racism, poverty, climate change and chronic disease. Those are probably the most important elements for social betterment or social impact,” says Evette on the far-reaching goals of social impact which are in line with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals for Good Health and Well-Being, Reduced Inequalities and Climate Action.
“One of the arrows in our quiver is that we work with communities to make impactful storytelling videos that range from short to long-form formats. We’ve made digital stories that can be shared through various social media platforms that center residents in positive storytelling,” she says of the work she and Piero have produced.
The videos have featured cities like Rancho Cucamonga and North Long Beach in California that have empowered their residents to create positive change in their communities. The videos have highlighted Rancho Cucamonga’s Youth Leaders program and the Long Beach Heal Zone (Healthy Eating and Active Living Initiative) that have both engaged communities to create foundations for healthy living.
“Low status residents need to be leading these programs as it is the underserved and impoverished people who benefit the most from these social impact endeavors. Residents need to be the leaders,” says Evette. She uses the term “low status,” which was coined by Majora Carter, a champion of sustainable economic development for low-status communities in America, who refers to low status communities as “places where inequality is assumed.”
The Social Impact Artists choose to make human-centric content where residents tell their stories themselves in the hopes that they inspire others to create similar social change. The documentaries feature testimonies and profiles in both English and Spanish and are deeply personal, focusing on experiences with depression and mental health issues, as well as ways in which residents have been proactive in their communities.
The documentary short on the Long Beach Heal Zone shows viewers how parents in the Long Beach community identified dangerous intersections and worked with city engineers to create a traffic circle to slow down traffic near school areas, improving walkability and safety for pedestrians.
The human profiles are meant to be inspiring, such as that of Tyler Shumaker, a veteran and helicopter pilot who severed a tendon in his hand during training, resulting in zero mobility of his finger, preventing him from flying. The Social Impact Artists document his transformative recovery post-surgery with the VersaWrap tendon protector which restored full motion back into his finger.
“Our goals for the future include getting more of these films out and spreading a little love to the world. We’re trying to create better social environments as there’s a lot of negativity in the world, so if we can show a little ray of light through our films, that’s the message we love to share,” says Piero.
Beyond digital storytelling, The Social Impact Artists are continuing their programs such as Zúm Up! which tackles chronic disease and obesity through exercise and nutrition classes in Ontario, California. They are also currently working on the California Climate Transformation Plan, a multisectoral project that is trying to reduce the impact of greenhouse gas on low status residents.