I have always loved stories. I believe that stories have the power to take us to another world, change our perspectives, and inspire action. This philosophy has become central to what we do each and every day at POPNOD.

There are 5 stories in particular, which are changing the way we think about ourselves and the world. More importantly, these stories will inspire you to do more.

Naked For Change
Penny Locaso, founder of BKindred (http://bkindred.com.au), was set to deliver a keynote speech at Level Up 2017, a conference in Australia for one hundred professional women to learn the tools to take their careers to the next level. Her keynote, “Tactics For Happy Change,” was allotted to the graveyard 2:30 pm slot. She knew she needed a bold strategy to engage the audience.

As a woman who has always struggled with her weight and a negative body image, Locaso knew she was not alone. She decided to start her keynote getting half #nakedforchange. She stripped down to her bathing suit and shared with the audience her first tactic for happy change – learn to get comfortable with being uncomfortable. Locaso shared how uncomfortable she felt in that moment, and that discomfort is what it feels like to move through change worth having. The audience responded with a huge roar of cheering and applause.

Locaso’s bathing suit moment garnered over 26,000 views across social media in just three days, and an influx of positive comments on multiple social platforms. In her #nakedforchange experiment, she challenges others to do something that makes them feel exposed in their own ways, and learn the art of getting comfortable with being uncomfortable.

Locaso says it perfectly, “Vulnerability is the new authenticity and an underrated powerhouse for creating real cultural change. It makes us relatable, real and it can provide a basis for others to look at fear as a positive lever and challenge their perspectives.”

You can read the rest of her story at Naked For Change and share your #nakedforchange story on Instagram by tagging @b.kindred.

Making a Difference. Together.
Every year since 2010, Kicheko Goods founder Sarah Bayot has been traveling to the same village in the Democratic Republic of Congo as a volunteer. During her visits, Bayot found that many children lacked the resources to go to school, could not afford to eat every day, and did not have access to clean water. However, she was constantly moved by the beauty, hope, and communal spirit of the people. “Every year I visit the community, and every year I see that hope can be made tangible and that resilience is in all of us,” Bayot reflects.

Bayot set out to create beautiful jewelry that helps bridge access to quality education for children who are vulnerable and at risk. Inspired by the joy of the children in Congo, she founded Kicheko Goods in 2014. Meaning “smile or laughter,” Kicheko Goods uses proceeds from every piece to fund one month of school for one child.

Since its founding, Kicheko Goods has proved that the impact made by each and every customer makes a huge difference. In 2014, proceeds from Kicheko were used to help construct a 6-classroom brick school building for the Mango Tree School in eastern Congo. In 2015, Kicheko was able to provide scholarships for 71 students to attend Mango Tree for two years. In 2016, the collective impact of Kicheko’s customers was able to fund nearly 1,600 months of scholarships for students.

Through her recently launched campaign, “Making a Difference. Together,” Bayot enlisted her very own customers to share portraits and stories to show how every one of us can make a difference in our own small, big, subtle, or dramatic ways.

You can follow their stories on Instagram at @kichekogoods and watch a video behind the impact at kichekogoods.com.

What Is Precious in Life?
While growing up in Slovakia, Denisa Piatti watched her father work with his hands, transforming ordinary things like branches into works of art. Her love for art was born. At age 16 after a rigorous examination, Piatti was accepted into a prestigious art school. She completed 8 years of formal study in jewelry making in Slovakia and Scotland.

In the years that followed, Piatti worked with a women’s empowerment project in Zanzibar, Tanzania, teaching women to make jewelry from local resources. While living there, she became intrigued by the process of how people in Tanzania harvested seaweed. Piatti’s experience living simply and humbly in Zanzibar made her reflect on her values and shifted her perspective of what is really precious. She realized that perhaps precious isn’t about the diamonds and pearls, but about the beauty and spirit of the process.

From her Washington, DC, studio, Piatti founded Denisa Piatti Jewellery (denisapiatti.com) with a mission to illuminate the beauty of non-precious material by using precious, traditional craftsmanship. Although she uses some precious metals and stones, such as pearls, she uses them as a vessel to accompany unconventional materials such as acrylic plastics. Contrasting precious with non-precious materials allows the viewer to question what precious really means – in jewelry and most importantly in life.

Piatti’s vision is to redefine the meaning of handmade and to educate others about the value of time, process, and spirit that goes into crafting what they wear. How does she want people to feel about her jewelry? Piatti responds thoughtfully, “I want them to touch and interact with my pieces, ask questions about them, and be curious.”

You can learn more about Denisa Piatti Jewellery’s story and watch a video behind her craft at denisapiatti.com.

Messages of Hope
Many victims of human trafficking are branded; their captors physically mark them with a number or symbol. The process is often violent: a forced tattoo, a burn or knife cut.

Lauren Carpenter and Emily Landham founded BRANDED Collective, a jewelry company that employs survivors of human trafficking from Nashville-based non-profit End Slavery Tennessee. The women work with local artisans to design and handcraft the jewelry collection.

Each BRANDED Collective piece contains a unique number that represents one of the millions trapped in the nightmare of trafficking. Their vision is that the collective of purchasers, survivors, and artisans will wear the story, share the story, and change the story together.

Since the company began, people have asked if there is a way to meet the amazing young women who craft the pieces. Although allowing face to face communication is rarely possible due to their sensitive circumstances and the importance of their anonymity, BRANDED Collective has created a place where people can register their piece and send a Message of Hope to their team of survivors. With over 200 Messages of Hope to the survivors and counting, BRANDED Collective has bridged the personal connection between the wearer and the survivors who help craft their pieces.

You can read the Messages of Hope or follow along on Instagram at @brandedcollective.

Igniting the Light in Young Women
Like many high school girls, Mandy Kota was faced with trying to find out who she was. After being treated wrongly by a guy, she found herself questioning her identity and her worth. Kota saw how her friends were using Instagram as a form of self-validation, and she soon found it toxic. During a BBQ with friends, she was surrounded by girls in bikinis taking selfies, and no one was having meaningful conversations.

Kota decided to create a community where young women are encouraged to focus on a different kind of beauty. Twnty Something was founded with a mission to be the shouting voice and cheerleader for young women to discover their self-worth and realize their true potential.

Through authentic conversations on social media, in-person meetups, and workshops, Kota has connected with thousands of girls since founding Twnty Something less than a year ago.

Kota shares the four values that define her community, “Love: We believe in the power of love, for yourself and for others. Joy: We approach everything with joy and compassion. Encouragement: We believe in sisterhood over competition. Faith: We are driven by faith in ourselves and in every one of you.”

You can follow her words of encouragement on Instagram at @twntysomething_ and learn more about her programs at www.twntysomething.org.

POPNOD is a creative marketing studio that champions brands that inspire and contribute to a better humanity. We help brands grow, build lasting fans, and tell powerful stories.

At Conscious, we are inspired by stories that cause us to think differently and think big-picture, and so we set out to tell stories with the help of leaders and influencers within the social good community. You can read more stories like this when you join as a member.