Why Animating Dignity Became My Passion

By Andrew Park, Founder of Cognitive

 

Being a parent in any era has its set of challenges. The period of transition from child to a teenager doesn’t come with instructions and relying on one’s own experiences to guide you through the terrain are woefully inadequate and out of date. Couple that with living in an era when young people’s worlds are amplified by an all pervasive and 24/7 digital culture then we soon realise that we are all navigating in uncharted waters on a daily basis. 

It happens so quickly, the transition from a ‘little girl’ to complex teenager, so much so that most parents are left scrabbling about for information and guidance on what is going on and also how to handle certain situations. 

 We had just moved to a new area and our pre-teenage daughter was dealing with the challenges of joining a new school and set of friends. It wasn’t before long that we were hearing stories of conflicts and squabbles daily. It wasn’t just our daughter, the whole year group seemed to be involved in a complex series of school-related social issues. The situation came to a head when our daughter became locked into an unhealthy rivalry with one girl and their related friendship groups.  

My wife and I were keen to understand what was going on. There must be people going through these experiences elsewhere. It didn’t take long to find out that this, indeed, was the case. A few hours on the internet led us to the work of Rosalind Wiseman. Looking into the work she had done with girls and their friendship groups it was clear to see that she was the guiding light for us. We ordered a few of her books immediately. 

Keen to help our daughter through this unsettling time we rapidly gobbled up the information. Reading Rosalind‘s book, “Queen Bees and Wannabees”, was like lifting a curtain on a world we didn’t know existed. I suppose it has a lot to do with the dissonance between who we understood our daughter to be at home and the behaviour she was exhibiting at school. When you also realise that this behaviour is amplified, because most of the girls in her year group were all possibly fulfilling one, or several roles that Rosalind defines in her book, we could understand why the teacher was looking frazzled. It’s a complex social hierarchy that has roles, rules and codes that are invisible unless they are revealed to you. These behaviours are far removed from our adult world and applying the same solutions we would employ in our world just don’t work. 

animating dignity

Image from What Is Dignity? film by Cognitive & Cultures of Dignity

I am lucky to be able to help champion causes I think would be beneficial. The work we have made for the RSA has proved there is a global appetite for content that is rich in world-changing concepts, ideaseasily digested and shared. An appetite sated perfectly through whiteboard animationI wanted to help animate some of the concepts in Rosalind’s book. If anything, to raise awareness for other parents and their children who might be going through the same uncomfortable and emotional journey. I found Rosalind’s contact details and sent her an email hoping to connect. 

A lot of the work I do happens because I have a desire to understand the concepts and ideas that lay within. I like to think I am constantly at school and open to learning. Each project I work on has a tremendous amount of learning involved. I always find that if I must unpack information and reform it visually then I must understand those constituent parts enough to make the whole justified and valid for a virgin audience. 

Rosalind responded to my message and we scheduled a conversation. I am sure she must have thought – who is this guy emailing me out of the blue and wanting to make an animation…what’s the catch?  

Our conversation went well, and we agreed to make something together. Our initial thoughts were about making a whiteboard animation that would help illustrate the different worlds that young people and parents inhabit. It would be through highlighting those differences that a possible understanding could be reached. 

During subsequent conversations I proposed to Rosalind that she should speak at the RSA.  I suggested that it might be through that presentation that we found the content that we needed for our whiteboard animation. Fortunately, Rosalind was coming to Europe in the near future and so I introduced her to Mairi Ryan from the RSA events team and they scheduled in a talk at the Society. You can watch Rosalind’s “Creating Cultures of Dignity” here 

After a few more conversations we really started to hone down the message of what we wanted to animate. We eventually decided that we should pull the focus out and explore a larger and harder to grasp concept. A concept that Rosalind reports comes up time and again when she is working with people – the difference between ‘Respect’ and ‘Dignity’. 

I must admit that it’s still a tricky concept to get one’s head around. The two words have been inextricably linked for so long that they have erroneously garnered the same meaning for a lot of people. In trying to explain the difference there could be no better place to start than, everybody’s friend, the dictionary.  

Respect – comes from the Latin ‘Respectus’ – A feeling of deep admiration for someone elicited by their abilities, qualities and achievements.  

Dignity – comes from the Latin ‘Dignitas’ – The state or quality of being worthy of honour.  

Without trying to explain it any further, it might be good if you just watch the explainer animation. It uses the communicative and engaging strengths of whiteboard animation, and hopefully it’s a good primer for discussion. If you are someone working with young people, we would be happy if you used the film as a launch pad for discussion around these themes.  

Resources

Founder of Cognitive, Andrew Park, shares the process and challenges of animating dignity - bringing large and to grasp the concept to life.