Storytelling

Case Study: Brandon Stanton (HONY) and the Bonded Labour Liberation Front Campaign


Bonded Labour Liberation Front Campaign

(Humans of New York)

“My sister’s kidneys were failing. We tried to raise the money to save her. We sold our cattle. We sold our property. We sold everything we had. When we ran out of options, I took a 5,000 rupee loan from the brick kiln…I never saw my wages. If I wanted to stop, they beat me…There’s no way out. Soon my debt will pass on to the next generation.”

That is just a small glimpse into one of the many stories recorded by Humans of New York founder, Brandon Stanton.

The man in conversation with Stanton is explaining the corrupt, oppressive nature of the brick kiln industry in Lahore, Pakistan. This post was included in a larger series following the active slave labour industry in Pakistan.

Syeda Ghulam Fatima, Humans of New York, Bonded Labour Liberation Front Campaign

Syeda Ghulam Fatima, Bonded Labour Liberation Front Campaign (Humans of New York)

Each post focused on an individual who was directly or indirectly enslaved in brick kiln labor. Stanton began the series by introducing Syeda Ghulam Fatima and his subsequent campaign to support her organization, the Bonded Labour Liberation Front.

After just 4 days, people had donated over $2.3 million to the campaign.

Stanton’s ability to catalyze such immense generosity is astounding. His secret?

He is curious and knows how to listen.

When interviewed about his original motivations behind Humans of New York, Stanton explains,

“I loved taking photographs at the time, and I struck upon this kind of crazy idea that I was going to go to New York and stop 10,000 people on the streets and take their portrait, and create kind of a photographic census of the city.”

Rather than adhering to the common numerical formula which characterizes a census, Stanton opted to reframe counting people, not as numbers, but as the stories they chose to share.

With many millions of social media followers and two published books, both of which made the New York Times Nonfiction Bestseller List, and the ability to raise $2.3 million in 96 hours, Brandon Stanton has discovered the power of storytelling.

Stories will always generate more empathy and engagement from their audiences than facts and numbers will.

If Stanton had decided that numerical censuses are the only ones of value, we would have missed the incredible opportunity of meeting hundreds of people through his pictures and, perhaps, he never would have met Syeda Ghulam Fatima or raised $2.3 million.

Good stories—authentic, organized, and accessible—have power.


About the Author

Lindsay Isler

Lindsay is a graduate of the University of Virginia where she received a Bachelor’s in English Literature. Connect with Lindsay on LinkedIn.

More Posts by Lindsay Isler

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