Ideas for a better world in 2011

To start the new year off right, the Monitor asked various thinkers around the world for one idea each to make the world a better place in 2011. We talked to poets and political figures, physicists and financiers. The results range from how to reduce the number of nuclear weapons in the world to ways to revamp Hollywood.

Dave Eggers

DAVE EGGERS, writer, editor, and publisher who has helped launch youth writing programs in eight cities (coordinated by the nonprofit 826 National) and the Voice of Witness project, a series of books in which ordinary people tell their stories to illuminate human rights crises

Idea: Tell a story, change the world

Mr. Eggers writes: Human rights abuses are uniquely possible in a place and time when empathy is absent or at an ebb. And one powerful way to engender empathy is through plain old storytelling. Through listening to stories of people who have lived through injustice, we understand, we empathize, and we can act morally. So Voice of Witness takes on issues by letting the narrators tell their stories, at length, and own their narratives. We find again and again that readers who felt they knew an issue – like hurricane Katrina or undocumented workers in the US – have their perceptions completely realigned once they read the life stories of the people behind the headlines. Studs Terkel, the godfather of modern oral history, said, "I've always felt that there's a deep decency in the American people and a native intelligence – providing they have the facts, providing they have the information." We're trying to provide that information, one story at a time.

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