My Storytelling Journey with Our Better World

My Storytelling Journey with Our Better World

  
Tsen-Waye Tay Tsen-Waye Tay

There’s no such thing as an “organised mess” with Waye. Everything has its rightful place. When she’s not out with her camera or delivering snails to safer ground, she’s home with a book or a film. Sniffing out stories for Our Better World is her dream role - one that marries her love for storytelling and a deep desire to make a difference.

My journey with Our Better World (OBW) started in 2014, three years before I joined the team full-time. I had come out of an extended break from employment and was looking to return to something meaningful that would involve a journalism or communications element. OBW ticked all the boxes and thankfully, despite my lack of video production experience, offered me a role as a contracted producer for three months.

The team consisted of six people back then. We huddled around a table in a co-working space and I felt like part of something new and exciting – telling stories of good for good, the digital storytelling world a nascent platform for making a difference to the disenfranchised, discriminated and disengaged. Having come from a journalism background, I was used to bad news making headlines and it was refreshing to be amongst communications experts who thrived on creating stories that elevated and celebrated the human spirit, which in turn could inspire viewers to take action.

As the contract approached its end, a job opportunity at a regional broadcaster materialised and instead of renewing the contract with OBW, I decided instead to return to news full-time. I figured that the TV news job would allow me to hone my skills in video production and to further sharpen my news sense. And since I knew I would apply to work with OBW again, the experience would make me a better producer and hence more equipped to contribute to its growth.

As fortune would have it, that chance presented itself at the exact time I was ready to leave TV news in 2017. The stars aligned as it were, and a new position of development producer opened at OBW. I could not have asked for a more ideal job description if I had written it myself. Not only would I continue to produce stories, and hence actively participate in the storytelling process, but my primary responsibility would be to source for stories across Southeast Asia and South Asia.

To carve out a role that focusses on searching for potential stories showed the level of importance OBW placed in the storytelling process and the quality and legitimacy of the stories it produced.

I had often felt a sense of guilt as a reporter, of the fleeting interaction one had with story profiles. You enter a person’s life hoping for them to reveal themselves to you, and then once shared, you leave as quickly as you had appeared. OBW’s mission to create and develop relationships with its story subjects resonated with me. That investment of resource and time would also mean deeper and more authentic connections.

OBW had more than doubled in size and I was thrilled to be part of this expanding team of dynamic individuals from both the private and public sectors. It is rare to encounter people whose goals are so intrinsically linked to their place of work, and not driven merely by self-interest. The sense of teamwork and a shared mission was palpable. But while you worked collectively to achieve OBW’s goals, the individual was not neglected.

Led valiantly and selflessly by Rebecca Lim, OBW’s team leads with consideration and inclusiveness, driven by humility, compassion and authenticity, which are central to OBW’s ethos. In turn, this culture of care and concern resonates in each functional team; from Community to Tech, as well as from Analytics and Marketing to Content production. What this ensures is that OBW’s values are hardwired into its DNA, practised and protected by everyone who works here. These factors have made my three-and-a-half years at OBW very rewarding and nourishing. On a day-to-day basis, staff are encouraged to do better and evolve the status quo, while mistakes were opportunities to learn and improve. One never felt ashamed or brow beaten.

When out in the field recceing or meeting with storytellers, story scouts and story subjects I often pinched myself, ever grateful for the privilege to meet and spend time with these inspiring, talented and compassionate souls. Their passion for making the world a better and more equitable place underscores one of the main reasons OBW exists — not just producing and delivering these incredible stories to an online audience, but also providing avenues to take action, for example, through donating and volunteering.

I think it helps that the content team consists of such a diverse and talented bunch of individuals, where each producer brings a unique perspective to the table with wit, honesty and depth. I am often humbled by how much more I have to learn about storytelling, humility (my ego been bruised plenty of times) and empathy not only in the way a narrative is framed, but in how to accept feedback with grace, while always putting the welfare of the story subject at the centre of every decision.

But OBW is not just a storyteller. One other aspect that makes it unique is the commitment to building communities and relationships with its stakeholders across the evolving ecosystem of social good. I do not understand fully the mechanics and complexities of creating a community (consisting of NGOs, storytellers and supporters) but the intention is laudable. There is not much more one could ask for in a working environment.

That all said, even good things come to an end. I leave knowing that OBW will only grow from strength to strength. And rest assured a colleague (and friend) who takes over the role of development producer will take it to the next level. 

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Tsen-Waye Tay Tsen-Waye Tay
There’s no such thing as an “organised mess” with Waye. Everything has its rightful place. When she’s not out with her camera or delivering snails to safer ground, she’s home with a book or a film. Sniffing out stories for Our Better World is her dream role - one that marries her love for storytelling and a deep desire to make a difference.