Expo2020 Dubai highlights

During its 6 month run from 1 October 2021 until 31 March 2022, as Expo2020 Dubai united the world to share ideas and showcase innovation, it also served as one of the most powerful platforms to celebrate humanity. Dignified Storytelling actively featured across the rich calendar of specialist programming throughout the duration of Expo 2020 Dubai, with 13 of its events woven into each of Expo’s thematic weeks encompassing cultural, social, economic, environmental and UAE-based themes. These Dignified Storytelling events collectively welcomed more than 3,000 participants and hosted more than 85 speakers and performers who dove into compelling discussions around telling stories with human dignity at heart.

Here we present some of the key highlights from Dignified Storytelling's participation at Expo2020 Dubai:

Raindance Film School Partnership

Preparing the next generation of filmmakers to tell dignified stories

With the aim to instill the concept of ethical and socially responsible storytelling among young filmmakers, Dignified Storytelling and Raindance Film School Dubai embarked on an exciting collaboration to educate students at Raindance about the importance and values of dignified storytelling.

Ragy Saro, the Dignified Storytelling lead, delivered a training session for the students at the school, introducing them to the background and practices of dignified storytelling and to the recently launched Dignified Storytelling handbook, which is a useful resource for all storytellers and provides practical tips and guidelines on how to apply the ten principles of dignified storytelling in practical real-life storytelling scenarios.

To put Dignified Storytelling into practice and to hone its principles more closely, students at Raindance Film School Dubai were tasked with applying them in creative ways through their filmmaking projects. 

As part of this exercise, students created short films based on each principle, which culminated in the production and release of 5 short films consisting of 4 sci-fi dramas based around various principles of Dignified Storytelling and 1 short documentary about plastic waste, which were later screened for the public at the Dubai Cares pavilion on Saturday, 26 March 2022. 

The Dignified Storytellign Forum

Integrating Dignified Storytelling into policy and practice

Dignified Storytelling was featured across Expo 2020’s rich calendar of specialist programming, which reflected and celebrated the spirit of Dignified Storytelling throughout the 6-month event. Dignified Storytelling was integrated into and represented at each thematic week at the show, such as the Water week, Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) week, Space week and so on. Being a platform for global advocacy and outreach and working towards fostering a shared understanding and practice of storytelling that upholds and celebrates the dignity of all persons, Expo2020 Dubai served as a powerful platform to bring key messages of Dignified Storytelling into the awareness of the wider public as well as stakeholders within humanitarian, social service and development sectors.

The Forum stood out as the most strategically important Dignified Storytelling event during Expo, attracting more than 700 in-person and virtual attendees who heard from more than 20 speakers on the overarching topic of adopting dignified storytelling approaches across policy and practice to help reshape the way stories are told around the world.

894 individuals and organizations have taken the Dignified Storytelling pledge to date, affirming their commitment to the ten Dignified Storytelling Principles and forming part of a growing global community.

Dignified Storytelling Handbook launch

Available for download in four languages: English, Arabic, French and Spanish

The highly anticipated Dignified Storytelling Handbook was launched at the Dignified Storytelling Forum on 10 December 2021, marking Human Rights Day. The Handbook is a tool to encourage all those involved in story generation and consumption towards thoughtful reflection, the assessment of risk, open and honest dialogue, and renewed innovation and creativity in the process and end products of the stories we tell. It serves as a useful resource for everyone who is a storyteller or who works with storytellers.

The Dignified Storytelling Handbook is available for download on the Dignified Storytelling website in four languages - English, Arabic, French and Spanish.

The development of this Handbook would not have been possible without the contributions of the 144 individuals who generously shared their insights and experiences through a series of 6 online consultations, held between October 2020 and May 2021. This includes but is not limited to: policymakers, programmes and communications staff in international development agencies, INGOs/NGOs, charities, foundations, and corporations; freelance content creators; journalists; photojournalists; media and communications specialists; photographers; videographers; donors, influencers; and audiences.

WE, the WOMEN Festival

Dignified Storytelling through music and dance

Music is perhaps one of the most engaging ways to tell a story. To celebrate International Women’s Day and highlight the need to #BreakTheBias, Dignified Storytelling and the Women’s Pavilion by Expo 2020 Dubai co-hosted the groundbreaking WE, THE WOMEN Festival with the aim to build unity and social awareness around gender equality and women’s empowerment through music, dance, and visual storytelling.

This event was a groundbreaking first female-led music festival in the Middle East, which took center stage at Expo 2020 Dubai on 6-7 March 2022, and featured unforgettable and powerful performances by 10 global and regional female artists and storytellers, spanning a wide range of genrés and mediums.

Their musical performances addressed visible and invisible barriers to gender equality and women’s empowerment, and generated thought-provoking conversations around the importance of challenging harmful stereotypes that hold women back.

Dignity band/Togetherband partnership/ #BREAKTHEBIAS Campaign

Committed to making real impact in bringing about positive change for a better world

Dignified Storytelling partnered with the UK based global movement, Togetherband, to launch a Dignity edition band which represents a symbol of support for human dignity and calls upon the public to advocate for #breakthebias. 

The idea behind #breakthebias is enompassed in Principle #5 of Dignified Storytelling ‘I am biased (repeat)’ which encourages everyone to recognize biases, stereotypes, social stigmas and power differences that exist in us all, whether we are aware of them or not.

The Togetherband online campaign achieved a reach of almost 2 million people and generated 55,000 clicks within a span of 4 days. International celebrities who endorsed the dignity band included engineer-turned-actor Aishwarya Sharma from India, Nigerian-American singer and motivational speaker Kechi Okwuchi, English footballer Lucy Bronze, American actress and producer Alysia Reiner and 8 other ambassadors who took to their respective social media platforms to raise awareness around #breakthebias, collectively generating a reach of 5 million people worldwide.

African Union Partnership

Championing the African narrative

Building upon the Dignified Storytelling network of key advisors and alliance members, which includes Dubai Cares, Expo 2020 Dubai, the UAE Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation (MOFAIC), alongside strategic partners such as the League of Arab States and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), the African Union Commission through the Directorate of Information and Communication also joined hands with Dignified Storytelling, with an overarching goal to champion the African narrative, making a commitment to continue telling African stories without bias or false narrative at the expense of human dignity.  

Speaking about the new partnership, the Director of Information and Communication, and AU at Expo 2020 Dubai, Pavilion Director, Mrs. Leslie Richer commented: 

“the African Union welcomes the Dignified Storytelling initiative and its goal to bring more transparency, authenticity, balance, equity and respect to storytelling and transform the narratives we tell about the world we live in and its people.”

Agora Awards partnership

Letting humanity guide creativity

Dignified Storytelling’s landmark collaboration with Agora Global Talent Awards 2022 was announced at the Dignified Storytelling Forum on 10 December 2021, through the launch of the Water 2022 Photography Award, a distinct category in the Agora Global Talent Awards 2022 that offered global photographers the opportunity to champion the Dignified Storytelling principles through the medium of photography and let humanity guide their creativity.

Meanwhile, on 8 March 2022, marking International Women's Day, the WE, THE WOMEN photography exhibition was unveiled where for the first time, dozens of renowned photographers from around the world formed part of a visual manifesto of women's dignity and diversity.

 This photo exhibition was unveiled at Expo2020 Dubai and the works of these great artists were also available for virtual visits through the Metaverse Plaza. One copy of each piece of the historic collection was also auctioned on the Agora NFT Market and the public could get involved by investing in NFTs with true value and support the artists and the Malala Fund.

Get involved with Dignified Storytelling

Dignified Storytelling has been actively uniting the voices of content makers, editors, journalists, photographer, filmmakers, contributors, storytellers, and those working with them, to agree and create guidance on storytelling practices that upholds the dignity of all persons and creates a positive environment.