Meet 2021 American Express NGen Leadership Award Finalist – Meghan Shea

As Director and Producer of documentary films, and Co-Founder of Persistent Productions, Meghan Shea focuses her lens on the work of individuals and organizations that are creating positive social impact in the world.

She shares more about her background in the arts to create films that examine issues from multiple viewpoints and global perspectives.

You’ll get to meet & hear Meghan Shea during her Upswell Summit Spotlight on Wednesday, October 20 at 12:00 – 12:15pm as part the Public Square networking session. Until then, you can learn a bit more about her below..

  • It’s been a particularly challenging couple of years, what has kept you grounded and whole in this time?
Meghan Shea

Indeed – the last few years have been challenging! In our business, film production, there were many shifts that occurred from working and filming in-person to being able to be remote that required reimagination. Working with our team of editors, producers, and cinematographers, we were able to create some innovative technical solutions that allowed us to continue to work in a variety of new ways. These innovations allowed us to continue to work and continue to partner with social enterprises, nonprofits and NGOs. This in turn allowed me to stay grounded, continuing to work and to create stories that amplify changemakers and that create social impact through storytelling. Leaning into my team of colleagues at Persistent Productions allowed me to stay grounded and continue to do the work that I love.

  • Who or what has been the biggest inspiration to your growth as a leader?

The biggest inspiration to my growth as a leader has been working with public health and healthcare workers that I’ve worked with in global childhood cancer. Initially this was for the documentary film How I Live, but these relationships have grown into a series of long-term partnerships. Two leaders in particular who have impacted and inspired me are Soad Linneth Fuentes-Alabi, MD, MPH, Director Cientifico Centro Medico Ayudame A Vivir, Departamento de Oncologia Pediatrica Hospital Nacional de Ninos Benjamin Bloom in San Salvador, El Salvador; and Irini Albanti, DrPH, MPH, MA Executive Director at Harvard Humanitarian Initiative in Boston, Massachusetts. Seeing them live their commitment to decreasing the inequity in children’s cancer and their fortitude in pursuing this over years has been an inspiration. Their ability to work on systems change throughout multiple challenges to increase health outcomes has taught me about perseverance. And the opportunity to collaborate between public health, science, and the arts is something that I’ve been grateful for. Their friendship and the opportunity to learn from them has been invaluable.

  • What attracted you to become involved in your organization’s mission?

I’m one of the co-founders of my organization and we founded Persistent Productions to bring cinema, storytelling, and social impact together. I was trained as an artist and always have felt that the process of creating and making was central to my way of working. But work in the art studio for me could be isolating and feel disconnected from the larger social movements and issues of our lives.

For me bringing together filmmaking and storytelling was a way to bridge both the creative world and social justice, and a way to expand and create change through collaboration.

  • Upswell, a meeting ground for Independent Sector’s changemaker community, is focused on creating a healthy and racially equitable nation. How does this vision tie into your organization’s work?

Our organization is working toward creating a healthy racially equitable nation and world through artistic partnerships, artistic training programs, and cross sector collaboration. The arts have a role to play in pushing for racial equity and celebrating leaders and organizations that are working to create those changes.

  • What attributes and perspectives do today’s emerging leaders bring to accelerating the sector’s work to address our nation’s challenges?

Today’s emerging leaders bring a sense of urgency to our nation’s challenges. Last year has taught us all that we need to be responsive to the moment but also flexible in how we get there. We can’t use the methodologies of the past in the present moment. Being able to continue to bring this adaptive ability to the urgent challenges of racial, health and environmental equity will be the challenges for us all to meet.

  • How would you challenge all of today’s changemakers to become more involved in building a healthier and more racially just nation where all can thrive?

I would challenge today’s changemakers (including myself) to look for opportunities to learn and collaborate across sectors. Building a healthier and more racially just nation will take the skills, expertise, and power from many communities and sectors. I know that I have been grateful for the opportunity to learn from my own community, but equally powerful has been learning to listen and taking time to integrate and reflect on these learnings from other communities and fields.

Want to learn about our other 2021 American Express NGen Award finalists?

Learn about Richard Reyes, Alejandro Gibes de Gac, Kashif Shaikh, Andrew Plumley,  Nick Monzi, and Maria Yuan, the 2021 American Express Leadership Award recipient.

Types: Blog
Global Topics: Arts, Culture, and Humanities, Civil Society, Equity, Race, Equity, and Inclusion, Voice
Focus Areas: Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion