More than 25 years after inaugural Kravis Prize winner Roy Prosterman founded Landesa to focus on one of the chief structural causes of global poverty – rural landlessness – Landesa’s current president and CEO was inspired to re-focus his approach to leading the organization at the Sundance Film Festival.
Writing at the Huffington Post’s Social Entrepreneurship blog, Tim Hanstad shared how the festival offered him more than a glimpse of the year’s best independent films. It also showed him how to leverage storytelling to achieve large-scale social impact.
In what he termed a “confession,” Hanstad described how the festival helped him better understand the origins of his own passion for the cause of land rights:
As a data-driven leader, for years I have carried a prejudice against the value and power of storytelling, often thinking of stories as too anecdotal, bordering on the shallow. I thought a powerful story was a relaxing respite from metrics, serving more or less as a colorful parenthesis within an analytical argument.
Yet through our discussions, I realized that my own calling to global poverty began not with data, but through hearing the stories of fellow agricultural day laborers, whom I worked beside as I grew up in the Pacific Northwest. You see, I trace my initial interest and motivation for working on global poverty issues to a summer when I was 10 years old, working in the berry fields along with Mexican migrant families. Interacting with the Mexican migrant children opened my eyes to social injustice – they worked so hard, yet had so little. They migrated with the harvests, moving from farm to farm and shack to shack. Their landlessness and poverty in southern Mexico forced them to follow the promise of opportunity in the north, where they continued their struggle to feed their families, in fields thousands of kilometers from home.
The stories of these migrant laborers instilled in me a drive from a young age to tackle the source of a problem, rather than treating the symptom. This curiosity eventually led me to the cause of land rights for the rural poor, and I’ve been advocating for land ownership ever since.
Sundance inspired Hanstad to elevate Landesa’s messaging through the stories of the 1 billion rural poor his organization represents. Landlessness is understood through the lens of those struggling – the same lens that led Hanstad to Landesa.
To learn more about the Landesa’s innovative work to promote the right to land ownership, visit the organization’s homepage.