In early 2013, the Open Documentary Lab and Center for Civic Media began a collaboration with EngageMedia and the video4change network to explore the impact of Video for Change; the innovative use of video towards advocacy aims.
I have been involved in what we now call the Video for Change field since the late nineties. When I was a University student in Australia, UK video activist pioneers, Undercurrents, inspired me with their work covering the swathe of social movements active at the time. I discovered a local equivalent in Access News, a weekly show on community TV in Melbourne. All this back in the days of tape and in some cases non-digital editing systems.
In 2004, I spent 6 months in Rome and got involved in the innovative network of micro TV stations called Telestreet, that was particularly active battling Prime Minister Berlusconi’s media empire. Telestreet combined with an online distribution platform called New Global Vision to share videos across the network of stations. The site looks clunky now, but at the time they were at the edge of what was possible with the technology, all pre-YouTube and operating for the most part on open source software and volunteer labour. I produced a short documentary exploring the Telestreet network that can be seen here.
Upon returning to Australia in 2005, I teamed up with Anna Helme who had previously worked with Undercurrents. We both felt that the Southeast Asia/Pacific region needed a space for sharing social change video materials and so we set out and started EngageMedia, along the way developing an open source video sharing content management system, developing networks of free software technologists and video makers and building a team across Australia, Indonesia, Singapore, Malaysia, and the Philippines.
Fast forward to June 2012, when EngageMedia, WITNESS and a dozen other organisations gathered to co-found the Video4Change Network. Out of a weeklong retreat, a great many questions arose regarding what impact the work we do really has, and how to go beyond what is often fairly superficial reporting and analysis, mostly due to resource limitations.
Fortunately for the network, Becky Hurwitz of MIT’s Center for Civic Media was present at the event, which lead in turn to a research collaboration with both Civic and the Open Documentary Lab to explore the impact of Video for Change.
OpenDocLab is a great space to be conducting this research due to the Center’s exploration of the intersection of technology innovation and storytelling. The Video for Change research taps a number of interests at the Lab; participatory forms of documentary production, crowd-sourced media distribution and aggregation, multiple authorship, and the melding of video with other web-based content.
To my mind, video activists have often been at the leading edge of documentary forms, leveraging innovation to most effectively reach audiences, engage, and mobilise them. Challenge for Change, a project that worked with disadvantaged communities in Canada’s remote Newfoundland in the 1960s, was part of a vanguard that put video production tools in the hands of everyday people, and pushed the idea of first person story telling.
Along with MIT graduate students Sean Flynn and Julie Fischer, and Dr Tanya Notley of the University of Western Sydney, I have been exploring the impact of video advocacy and these media forms and subsequent shifts in moving image media. Whilst there are a number of projects presently looking at the impact of video – particularly feature documentaries – there has been less focus on participatory and video activist approaches and content from the Global South. Many impact projects tend to emphasise quantitative over qualitative measures, but beyond the hits, clicks, likes and tweets, we are interested in how the process of production and distribution influences participants, how video can move people beyond “clicktivism” and catalyze deeper engagement with a campaign or movement, as well as how ethical considerations are integrated into a video’s creation and dissemination.
The research will produce scholarly work for journals and other publications, but we also seek to bring an open and participatory ethic into the research process itself. As such, we are blogging the research regularly as we go, asking questions, seeking ideas, and building a global community of practice.
Finally, we will produce a toolkit to assist video makers better design for and measure impact.
The first stage of the research produced a scoping report and series of blog posts that included interviews with video4change network members along with specific impact case studies. The scoping report, including recommendations for this coming stage, is available here.
You can read a full introduction to the next stage of the research on the video4change blog.
If you’d like to stay in touch please join our announcement list.
The gathering was designed as a participatory process where the participants discuss and arrive at their own definitions of terms and indicators of impact based on their knowledge, experiences and contexts. While past Video4Change (V4C) materials and research findings were used as guidelines, we found that self-definition was crucial to keeping the process more realistic and reachable.
The first session was a discussion on the social issues that they took up and captured in their videos, whether or not they have specific goals when they make their videos and what impact have their videos made so far.
We found that most of the participants take up a variety of social issues ranging from wider ones such as 1965 massacre and human rights, to more local ones such as waste management, city planning, and economy in small villages. Although the video activists mainly aimed to make impact in specific communities or society-at-large, through the course of production they also experienced impact at a personal level that was sometimes unexpected. Many related that they gained a deeper understanding and connection to the issues and the subjects in their videos.
It was evident that they always had their goals in mind when making videos, but it seemed problematic to measure whether the goals were met after distribution. The lack of success indicators set in planning stages and capacity to track impact contributed to this.
The next session was for participants to discuss in small groups about their specific videos and impact that followed. Each group then shared the mapping of one video in a plenary, which served as a case study to discuss the impact at personal, community, and societal levels. This was followed by a presentation from EngageMedia on V4C's research findings, some sample methodologies to assess impact, and key challenges to allow the participants to learn from video makers from other countries.
The second day, as collectively agreed upon on the first, was used to share skills on video-for-change, safety and security, social media promotion, and online subtitling using Amara, all in order to increase the impacts of their videos. The skills-sharing was done by both the facilitators and the participants themselves.
The final session was looking at methods participants have been already using to measure impact and how to improve. This meant setting a number of realistic indicators and having ways to check whether videos meet their specific goals using those indicators.
The discussion went deeper to how video activists can work together and with other individuals and organizations to make social change as intended.
Bringing together many different experiences and backgrounds (some participants were experts in their fields and some were new to video-for-change) made the gathering a fruitful learning process for everyone.
At the end of the two days, most participants were keen to have more gatherings such as this to discuss evolving strategies for making good advocacy videos to achieve bigger impact and pave the way to the change they want to see.
By Ade Tanesia
"From this film, we recognized our own situation," Muna Rif'Atil, a member of the Qariyah Tayibah community learning center said in comment to the film 'Lost Identity'. The film tells the story of young people in Salatiga, Central Java, who have lost their cultural identity in the face of rapid modernization.
Most of the participants of the video for change gathering in Indonesia were not able to clearly define the impact of their video, though they all had an understanding of their goals or the reasons for producing their films.
During the course of production, the creators of videos gained a lot more knowledge and grew the courage to identify sustainable ideas and actions. At the community level, the production process itself has a profound impact. Participants shared examples of how videos have become catalysts for a new sense of awareness for communities, strengthened their identities, encouraged solidarity and social movements, and have even created new communities and networks.
A point of discussion was whether videos have to spur social change. Is raising issues through the films enough or should the video makers continuously follow up actions that can taken to address the issues raised in the film? Someone asked: “Since the primary task of the video maker is to raise the issues using film as a tool, doesn't it make it tougher for them to be responsible for the mass movement as well?”
At this stage, we went on to talk about video distribution strategies, which can open doors for actions to be taken. Social change doesn't happen because a community has watched this or that video. The concluding agreement was that video makers should carefully map all relevant parties to be allies and targets of their film's distribution, so that the video in their hands can become an effective tool for change.
The major focus of the gathering was to discuss the impact of videos made for social change. As such, we looked at impact indicators, assessments, and various new ideas.
When analysing video and social change we need to be very specific and look deep into the relationship between the creator/s and the subject, or, the target audience. That was one of the main lessons that was discussed with participants at the Video4Change gathering in Yogyakarta.
For example the kotakhitam initiative in Yogyakarta targets historians and school teachers to promote videos with counter-narratives on the anti-Communist massacre that happened in Indonesia following a military coup in 1965. They aim to provide materials and information for discussion using video as a tool. One of its co-founders Kartika Pratiwi said: "For us, social change means a change in education and curriculum”.
Similarly, the Sangkanparan youth learning centre has a specific approach to "social change". Targeting young people, high school students in particular, the organisation uses "participatory video" to raise awareness about a particular issue among the participants through the process of their workshops. So, for Sangkanparan, social change means a change in their participants, in the way they see their surrounding environment.
An example of this is a video by Yuni called 'Kampung Tudung', which won an award for Best Film in the student category at Film Festival Dokumenter 2013. Yuni took her village as a material for her film and focused on its famous tradition of bamboo hat production. This affected and changed the way she saw her home and its surroundings.
In summary, what we call "social change" had a very different meaning for the groups and communities involved in the video production process. What we did agree upon, however, is on the characteristics and tools to measure social change. What was the kind of change, and at how many levels did it occur? We'll go deeper into this topic in the next part of this article.
Over the past two years, there has been a growing campaign to highlight the plight of workers in Cambodia's garment industry, which accounts for more than 80 percent of the country's exports.
The workers, over 80 percent of whom are women aged 18-35, face a myriad of problems including extremely poor wages and living conditions, and the lack of protection for health and safety. When these workers organise themselves to voice out about these issues, they are often met with threats of arrest, violence, and in some cases, death.
In December 2013, Cambodian garment workers went on a nation-wide strike asking for a higher monthly minimum wage than the $75 they currently earn. This led to a violent crackdown by Government authorities and a complete ban on demonstrations.
'Free The 23', a video recently uploaded to our website, was produced to call for the release of 21 garment workers and three prominent human rights activists who were among those arrested for organising for a minimum wage of $160 per month. The ongoing campaign has seen great global support.
The two-part video, 'Cambodian Workers Locked in Dispute', also tells the story of a wage dispute. It features the story of almost 200 workers who are owned $200,000 in wages and indemnity by a supplier of the global clothing brands Walmart and H&M.
The video was widely distributed and used as part of a global campaign to reach out to the retail giants through letters and demonstrations. Two months later, the workers won a settlement of an estimated $200,000, and another video was produced on their success. The looks of joy on the faces of the workers towards the end of the video is priceless.
Others are not as lucky however. The video 'Cambodian Workers VS Puma' tells the story of three female workers who were shot during a protest outside a Puma supplier's factory. This video was also used as part of an online petition campaign. Despite their pain, the women have all returned to work. Their shooter, a former-mayor, had his charges dropped and remains free.
Another film that should be mentioned is 'Who Killed Chea Vichea?', a banned documentary which investigates the murder of labour leader Chea Vichea and a supposed government plot that framed two men. As this year marks the 10th anniversary of the assassination, an attempt was made to screen it the film publicly in Cambodia. But authorities announced on the day of the screening that any foreigners involved would be deported and Cambodians arrested. The event was then cancelled.
Through our partnerships with organisations such as VOD and LICADHO, we continue to source and distribute videos on the various problems faced by Cambodia's garment workers. Among the latest videos we featured earlier this month is 'Is This Home?', which portrays the dirty, tiny rooms which house from five up to seven women workers. Other new videos highlight issues surrounding their health, occupational safety, sexual harassment, and working mothers. We hope that you can share this article and these videos to help raise awareness on the tragic struggle of the Cambodian workers.
In recent years in Indonesia, young people, activists, migrant workers, and video enthusiasts have been working with video to promote and achieve change for a more democratic society. There are many examples that can be found, where citizens have used the moving image as an act of citizen empowerment to push for open government.
The best example I can probably give is the Cinema Lovers Community Purbalingga (CLC) . The CLC is a club, a place to hang out for young people in Purbalingga, which is a small city in the south of the Central Java Province. For years now, the CLC has also served as a training center, training students and youths in using video to expose social problems in their neighbourhoods and around the city.
They have also produced this extensive video about local elections in their regency. They wanted to capture what happened during the election and also did a comparison of what elected candidates promised and delivered. This film was one of the winners at the South2South Film Festival 2012, and can also be viewed on the EngageMedia site here. The CLC have also set up and established this local film festival in Purbalingga.
Another example I'd like to share is the Moviemento project, which we conducted with Inspirasi Muda (IM), an independent youth organization in East Kalimantan, to produce videos to raise awareness among young people about corruption in Balikpapan as part of their vision for a clean government in the city.
One NGO, Pusat Sumberdaya Buruh Migran, which focuses on migrant workers issues, uses minute-long videos to promote dialogues between Indonesian migrant workers and Members of Parliament. This initiative has taken place in some sessions during an open debate related to the Migrants Protection Bill.
There are various other examples online which show how video can empower citizens push for a more effective democracy in Indonesia. With legislative and presidential elections happening in April and July this year, we hope to document another set of such videos.
In early 2013 the video4change network began a research project in collaboration with MIT's Center for Civic Media and Open Documentary Lab to explore the impact of Video for Change, with a focus on the approaches prevalent in the network. Those approaches are mostly short form, advocacy videos that emphasise participatory methodologies and are focused on the Global South.
The first stage of the research produced a scoping report and series of blog posts that included interviews with network members along with specific impact case studies. The scoping report, including recommendations for this coming stage, is available here. This report will also soon be made available in Spanish and Arabic.
- Improve the quality of Video for Change work and enhance collaboration in the field by developing shared understandings of how video can create impact;
- Raise the profile of Video for Change and promote it as a change-making practice;
- Develop shared evaluation and impact assessment methodologies, resulting in a toolkit that enables video makers and campaigners to effectively measure and understand the impact of their work;
- Build the Video for Change field by improving feedback systems and knowledge knowledge sharing via an online space that allows the Video for Change community to share tactics, strategies and lessons learned.
Stage Two is made up of three key components:
- Impact research
- Community building and knowledge sharing convened through the v4c.org website, online events, discussions and presentations.
- A toolkit that will provide a flexible framework to support video4change initiatives to design for and measure impact
Whilst there are a number of projects presently looking at the impact of video, particular feature documentaries, there has been less focus on participatory and video activist approaches and content the Global South. Many impact projects also tend to emphasise quantitative over qualitative measures. Beyond the hits, clicks, likes and tweets, we are interested in how the process of production and distribution influences participants, how video can move people beyond "clicktivism" and catalyze deeper engagement with a campaign or movement, and how ethical components are built into video's creation and dissemination, ensuring it is accountable to the movements it is part of.
The research aims to focus on four regions over two years: Southeast Asia, Mexico and Central America, South Asia and the Middle East/North Africa.
We'll be blogging the research as we go and hosting a number of online conversations. If you'd like to stay in touch please join our announcement list.
If you are interested in contributing to or supporting this research initiative please contact us.
On 26 January 2014, EngageMedia conducted a Video Advocacy training session for Myanmar activists as part of Human Rights Working Group's (HRWG) Training of Trainers on ASEAN and Human Rights in Jakarta, Indonesia.
We started the day with a presentation coupled with screenings of various advocacy videos from around the Asia-Pacific region, which provided as tools for discussion on not only effective messaging and packing, but also the commonality of issues across borders.
We were glad to note that all the everyone participated actively and showed a clear grasp of the concepts of Video Advocacy and the new skills they had gained. We look forward to working with more CSOs from the region this year, with two more similar training sessions with HRWG slated for February and March already.
On 21 - 23 January 2014, SEATTI and MAVC co-organised an event with EngageMedia called, 'Technology & Open Government, A Collaborative Learning' at the Linden Suites in Ortigas in Metro Manila. This event was attended by representatives from transparency groups, media groups, technology organisations and companies and government agencies from the Philippines.
The main objective of the event was to spark collaborations among the represented groups, organisations, companies and agencies in order to strategically use technology to support open government in the Philippines, as well as to build an understanding among participants in the use of new information and communication technologies (ICTs) in engaging citizens in transparency and accountability initiatives.
This was the 2nd event of this kind organised by SEATTI. The first one was held in Jakarta, Indonesia in July 2013. It was attended by budget transparency groups and technology organisations from Indonesia and the Philippines.
The facilitation team was comprised of 3 members of the EngageMedia staff, Indu Nepal, Dhyta Caturani, and Cheekay Cinco as well as Dondon Parafin from the Affiliated Network for Social Accountability in East Asia and the Pacific (ANSA-EAP). Dondon was in the first event held in Jakarta last year. EngageMedia also assisted in facilitating that event.
For facilitation, we employed a modified Open Space methodology. The specific agenda for the event was 'crowd-sourced' among the participants on the first day. The bulk of the event was spent on interactive sessions, small group discussions and technical skill sharing sessions with time scheduled for report-back and plenary feedback.
There are a number of on-going initiatives from transparency and media groups as well as government agencies that strategically use new ICTs to aggregate, curate and present data around issues. Some examples are:
- Money Politics. Developed and maintained by the Philippine Centre for Investigative Journalism (PCIJ), this website collates, repackages and makes more accessible data and information around 4 topic areas: Public Profiles, Campaign Finance, Public Funds, and Elections and Governance. PCIJ has impressively scrubbed through both analog and digital numerical data available to create a resource not just for journalists but for citizens who want to monitor the financial accountability of the Philippine government and its officials.
- Data.gov.ph was launched the week before the event. This is the main Philippine government portal for open data. Through this website developed by the Department of Budget and Management (DBM), data will be made available from the different government agencies in the Philippines.
- Centre for Media Freedom and Responsibility's Interactive Map on the Killing of Filipino Journalists is a monitoring tool on violence against journalists in the country.
- OFW-SOS by the Centre for Migrant Advocacy (CMA) uses mobile and web technology to provide emergency assistance to Filipino migrant workers.
The overall feedback from the event participants was positive. For most of them, this was the first unconference event they have attended. This type of workshop methodology is fairly new in the Philippines. While there was some trepidation from some of the participants, everyone was quite excited about experiencing a new way of doing events.
Concrete ideas for further collaboration and new projects have emerged out of the event:
- A Facebook group has been created and is being maintained by the participants to continue discussion and sharing of ideas among the participants.
- Open data events, hackathons, kapihan (coffee talks)
- Policy fora to be co-organised by CMFR and DBM around issues relating to open government, freedom of information and open data
- A collaboration between CMA and the Philippine Overseas Employment Agency (POEA) to use video conferencing to organise migrant Filipino workers
- The development of a concrete action plan to use social media to engage citizens was proposed by the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD)
More photos from the event available here.
“I came to Malaysia in 1989 when I was 19. I remember the hardship my family experienced and money was always short. My father was old and my mother could not find work. I had a lot of problems supporting my education, so I decided to leave my home for Malaysia.
I approached a middleman from my village who arranged for travel to Malaysia. It cost me RP 1 million for my passage to Malaysia.
On my first journey to Malaysia, we were brought to Pulau Asem, the first of our many destinations. There were about 100 people on the boat: men, women and even children. I was the first person to jump off the boat. Others were afraid to do so. We were afraid of being caught by the Indonesian Marine Police who patrol these areas.
We were told to disembark. Some were pushed into the water. Holding our belongings on our heads, we waded towards the beach. Once we reached the beach, we were asked to run towards a small stall. We were then kept hidden in a safe house nearby.
When I first started working in Malaysia, I was afraid of being apprehended by the authorities. I usually gave bribes to policemen when I was held, on the advice of my friends.
Once my friend and I were apprehended while trying to cross the Malaysian–Thailand border. I was told by a friend that we would be able to get traveling papers if I crossed over to Thailand. At the border check-point, Malaysian immigration officers became suspicious and arrested me. The officer took pity on me and advised me to plead guilty to the charge of overstaying in Malaysia. As a result, I was sent to a detention centre for almost three months. I become very ill at the detention centre and decided to return home in 2003.
I have been cheated many times in my effort to obtain work permits. I was cheated by both Indonesian and Malaysian agents. In 2004, I managed to get a valid permit when I joined a property developer who had started a housing project in Shah Alam.
The videos I made were based on Indonesian migrant workers living in Kampung Pandan. I come across many people who are mistreated by their employers. This includes both documented and undocumented workers. Many of my community members were cheated by agents during the 6P Programme.
The authorities are not interested to know why the migrants are undocumented. They just want to punish them. No one wants to be an undocumented worker, but due to poor laws and enforcement, it gives agents a lot of opportunities to deceive desperate migrant workers. One agent even challenged a worker she had cheated by saying: “If you dare, go report to the police!”
Watch all the videos from the Crossroads project here.