Skip to main content

Julie Kinnaird | July 14, 2020

Categories that we put people into become “single stories” that give us incomplete and simplistic understandings of the identities of others. In the TED Talk, THE DANGER OF A SINGLE STORY, Nigerian author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie gives viewers a cautionary warning regarding categorizing individuals on one or two elements of their culture. Adichie uses the phrase “single stories” to describe the overly simplistic and sometimes false perceptions we form about individuals, groups, or countries. Adichie says that the “single story creates stereotypes, and the problem with stereotypes is not that they are untrue, but that they are incomplete. They make one story become the only story.”

In developing global competency, educators and students can learn from Adichie’s talk and the importance of breaking down stereotypes. The following two websites engage users in images and data that help confront and dismantle stereotypes. Users can learn about what typical life is like across the globe for a diverse group of populations, expanding perspectives and views of the world.

DOLLAR STREET was launched in 2016 by Anna Rosling Rönnlund at Gapminder after she realized that the world needed to better understand what everyday life on different income levels looked like in places that were close to home and far away.

“People in other cultures are often portrayed as scary or exotic.” Anna explains: “This has to change. We want to show how people really live. It seemed natural to use photos as data so people can see for themselves what life looks like on different income levels. Dollar Street lets you visit many, many homes all over the world. Without traveling.”

Users are welcomed into homes and meet families virtually all over the world, learning about how families typically live, common household items, how families earn incomes, and the families’ dreams and hopes for the future. Not only can you see the vast differences and similarities among families living in different countries, but these similarities and differences are also evident in families in the same country living at different income levels.

THE EVERYDAY PROJECTS is a series of images documenting everyday life around the world. Instagram is the platform used to view the images, but you do not need to be registered or logged in to Instagram to view the images.

Initiated by Everyday Africa in 2012, The Everyday Projects movement invites photographers to counteract stereotypes of nations and people that are often portrayed in media across the globe. There are now numerous spin-offs of the original Everyday Africa to represent everyday life in regions of the world such as the Middle East, Latin America, Asia, Eastern Europe or countries like Egypt, Afghanistan, USA, Moldova, Iran and more! Images are taken primarily with mobile phones. The Everyday Project has also started several series representing global issues, themes or topics such as climate change, energy, impunity, incarceration, migration and more.

Most recently The Everyday Project team of photographers was asked by NPR to respond to the question “How has lockdown changed my life?” The resulting story showcases the way life has been altered, or not altered entirely, because of the coronavirus pandemic for scores of individuals, of all ages around the world. “They found that parts of their lives had been altered dramatically. But they also found solace in showing how ordinary activities could still go on — and give a sense of comfort.” View the full story here.

Images from THE EVERYDAY PROJECTS can be used to show students authentic portrayals of people and culture across the globe, increasing awareness and understanding. Additionally, by comparing images that are linked to a theme broadens the perspective and lens for how that important global issues impact local and global communities.

This summer World View launched a series of remote learning modules. The above resources are explored in two different modules and encourage educators to reflect on the resources through the lens of their own instruction. Additional modules are also available. If you’d like to learn more and earn CEU/PDCH with World View by completing the modules click here. World View will also feature The Danger of a Single Story in a twitter chat (#WorldViewChats), co-hosted by UNC’s Carolina Navigators on July 15 at 1pm EDT.