Student Spotlight: Lara Davis

Mandisa Thomas
May 2, 2024
Alumni Stories

Lara Davis is an Impact Producer at Visionary Justice StoryLab(VJS). VJS is a film hub and collective that innovates at the intersection of story, culture, and media. Lara’s work at VJS focuses on impact production and advocacy partnerships.

Lara speaks about why she chose this Executive Program in Social Impact Strategy.
A few years ago, I moved from Seattle to Atlanta and shifted the trajectory of my career within the arts and culture field. Up until that time, I’d been working primarily for non-profit, social service, and governmental entities. Now, my wife and I co-run an indie film and media company focused on intersectional storytelling by artists of color. That transition provided a space for me to further explore what it means to be a social entrepreneur. So, I sought out opportunities to learn about emergent perspectives on social impact strategy alongside experienced leaders and innovators doing powerful work with communities. I was excited about what a program like CSIS could offer, including access to relevant tools and frameworks that I could immediately apply to my work. Additionally, building connections with culturally and community-minded thought leaders and change-makers globally was super appealing.

What is your impact area?
I am the impact producer with Visionary Justice StoryLab, a New York and Atlanta-based independent film collective that supports intersectional storytelling and builds narrative power. We produce our own films and invest in artists of color to create shorts rooted in Black feminism, gender justice , and queer liberation. The social impact arm of our work includes Resisting Narratives of Erasure and the Women of Color Narrative Initiative, programs that provide resources, mentorship, professional development, and film screening opportunities for a cohort of fellows and grantees each year. I fervently believe in the power of storytelling and am committed to amplifying the voices of filmmakers creating compelling and liberatory narratives.

Words of wisdom for future applicants?
I love this quote from Bell Hooks, “To be truly visionary, we have to root our imagination in our concrete reality while simultaneously imagining possibilities beyond that reality.” You may come to this program seeking concrete steps to actualize a vision, strategies for conceptualizing a new project, or skillsets to engage in social entrepreneurship more adeptly. Whatever the case, having the readiness to explore new and perhaps some familiar ideas with an open mind and an understanding of your positionality relative to the work you do in communities is key. I think that can open doors to a deeper understanding of how we approach the work of social impact – through mindfulness that grounds us in the present condition and expands our vision for a more just future.