Courtney Spence on Why to Tell Stories of Progress and Not Problems

In Chapter 4 of 15 of her 2010 Capture Your Flag interview, non-profit executive and Students of the World founder Courtney Spence answers "Why do you focus on telling stories of progress versus stories of problems with your organization Students of the World?" Spence shares how she prioritizes positive story experiences over negative ones. Constantly inundated by war, poverty, disease, famine and economic depression, she feels negative journalism disengages and freezes people from the issue. Spence finds positive stories of progress is inclusive, engaging viewer to participate and get involved in a cause or project. Even if there is a challenge, be it human trafficking or HIV and AIDS, Spence sees possibility in telling that story through a positive lens of someone fighting the problem.


Erik Michielsen:  Why do you focus on telling stories of progress versus stories of problems with your organization Students of the World?

Courtney Spence:  It’s so important to tell stories of progress, to tell stories that are positive in some way because I think that really encourages people to want to know more, to want to get involved and to feel like they can do something about that cause or about that issue.  I mean, we are bombarded with messages of war, poverty, disease, famine, economic meltdowns.  Everything is so negative and I think that that makes me want to just disengage.  And “You know what? I can’t do anything about this stuff, it’s bigger than me.  I’ve got my own problems and I don’t want to learn about this anymore because everything is bad.”  So it kind of freezes people and makes them disengage from the world. 

So, when you show problems through the lens of someone that is doing something about that problem.  Someone that is on the ground, fighting the fight.  You recognize that this person gets up every morning and against all impossible odds continues to fight against HIV/AIDS, to fight against human traffickers and that they are out there living their life, dedicating themselves to solving a problem that is so much bigger than themselves or their family or their community.  You see you can affect change and affecting one life or affecting hundreds of lives is a positive thing.  And when you can see and celebrate these people that are doing these things on the ground I think it makes us want to be better people, it makes us want to be involved and makes us feel like, “Yes, we can overcome this because we can.”