Video Volunteers

Video Volunteers is a social media network that leverages the power of media to expand and accelerate positive social change, empower communities, overcome illiteracy and provide a real platform for voice among marginalized people in the developing world. By developing innovative and sustainable media platforms for production and distribution, focused on the needs and requirements of the poor and voiceless, we empower communities to create and share their own solutions to rights violations.
Feb 8, 2011

VV community videos on TV

a screening in a slum
a screening in a slum

2010 was a great year for Video Volunteers. We launched IndiaUnheard in March, with the idea of creating a kind community news service, a kind of grassroots Reuters. In March we trained the first thirty "community correspondents", one from each state in India. These were all community activists from very poor backgrounds, who came from districts in their states that are misrepresented in the media or are sites of conflict, like India's north east. They produce two videos a month on different themes and we broadcast them on our site. If you've not already, please check out Every day we publish a new video and you can interact with the community producers there, or on facebook and twitter.

One of the goals of IndiaUnheard is to generate revenue from the mainstream media. We believe that the poor can be winners in all the shakeups in the mainstream media today. The specific gap we are trying to fill is that there are not enough 'stringers' in the developing world. There is a huge dearth of reporters in the poorest parts of the world. And, well, our people are ready to take up the slack!

We are thrilled to say that the first TV station responded! About four weeks ago, we launched a weekly half hour news program with an Indian network called NewsX. It is the first time a news station has bought content directly from the poorest of the poor, and we are very proud! We believe this is a milestone in the history of efforts to democratize the mainstream media. You can watch the videos at the link below. The first episodes featured videos made by people like Rohini, a rural farming housewife from Maharashtra who has just taken out a loan from her microcredit group to purchase a computer. She is going to start a videography business to supplement her income from VV, and says this will make her VV work easier as the nearest computer is two hours away from her village. We feel we are helping to invent a new industry for the very poor -- and one that is based on their creativity and that brings knowledge and information to their villages.

One of the best ways you can take action is simply to watch a video, and post a comment either on our site or on facebook. Listening to these voices is the best way to say, "I believe in the rights of poor communities to speak out for themselves and be heard." We'll be sure to get you a reply from that community producer, who will be very touched to know people on the other side of the world are watching.


Oct 7, 2010

VV Launches in Brazil, focused on video and livelihood

We are thrilled to be working in Brazil, one of the most exciting countries for community media in the world. Our project is to help 10 young people set up their own video businesses. We believe that the "creative poor" can become participants in the global media, especially today when news stations are very receptive to citizen journalism.

In the program, which we've undertaken with the Brazil-based Casa das Caldeiras, ten young people from favelas were selected to spend one year learning to produce videos and to sell them in the market. They learn all manner of marketing, pitching, networking, doing market analysis, and of course, making good videos. We started the project after a field visit to Brazil in 2007, where we saw that thousands of disadvantaged young people in Brazil were learning video in NGO programs, but very, very few of them continued doing it after they finished these short-term NGO projects. Put simply, the NGOs were not focused on helping kids earn money through their skills. VV has experience in this area. Many CVUs in India focus on livelihood, and we have a research project with the best business school in India on ways to make community media sustainable. So we thought, video and livelihood is what we should focus on in Brazil!

The project has been a success. Many videos made by the project have been sold, and the participants are setting up a media cooperative that will enable them to keep doing video for years to come. We're packaging our training model now and plan to get it out to lots of Brazilian NGOs soon.

Oct 14, 2009

A Postcard from Training 150 Community Video Producers in India

This is Clare Rutz reporting from Goa, India.

During my travels one of the most concerning issues concerning the INGO world is the lack of communication between a project and well, everyone else. Very rarely do charities work with one another or have the proper relationship with their funding organizations. Video Volunteers go against this unfortunate trend entirely. Their mission is to organize Community Video Units (CVUs) that produce a film on a certain topic chosen by the team with the purpose of empowering the community and educating them on how they, as regular civilians, can make a difference. In seven of the eight states of India, Video Volunteers work with other non-profits to train their staff on how to make a film pertaining to the NGO’s mission which can be anything from women’s rights to ending government corruption to safe water issues.

During my visit to the office of Video Volunteers I was first led up slippery steps and it felt as if I was taking a tour of a jungle. The India heat made the tiny climb immediately discomforting, but by the time we got to the offices I realized the benefit of being tucked up away in the woods. Let’s just say it had a different vibe than most cubicles we know so well. I had come just in time for lunch (not intentional, I swear) so the entire staff sat down for a family style meal and we talked about the development work India needs to see and Video Volunteers’ role in all of that.

In the 15 CVUs there are 130 community filmmakers who are trained by the Video Volunteer staff. The staff goes to the NGO by train and spends six months with the CVU to teach them about filmmaking and also what comes after the video is made. When there is a screening of the film, the community is invited to come and participate in watching the film followed by a discussion of how they can help. The goal is to create clear solutions that are feasible for the community to take on. On average, about 250 people attend the screenings and only two people take action, but change is slow. To plant the seed in the minds of the community that teaches them that they are able to make a difference, and to also create an awareness of the societal problems that are happening around them is crucial for every developing country. The media is a powerful force and often times when there is proof of an issue that can actually be seen it holds much more weight in the community and also puts a greater pressure on the government and players.

I’m concerned that I’m making the job of the staff at Video Volunteers look easy. It’s far more complicated than the mere filmmaking training. Monitoring impact is an important part of their work, but it’s easier said than done. How does one measure a rise in the sense of empowerment of a community or the rise of self-esteem among women in India? These are the issues they are working with and more often than not, numerical and quantitative data don’t really get the gist across. Video Volunteers follow the community’s progress as well as the NGOs they are partners using qualitative data as well as quantitative in hope to measure the impact of the film screenings.

It’s also a thorough and long process to determine which NGOs become CVUs. A partnership with Video Volunteers requires the non-profit to be well established because the program costs a fair bit of money. It is also vital for any partnership to share the same mission and long-term goals as Video Volunteers. By creating this criteria the end result is an entire community stretched across India working together with the people of India to build a stronger, fairer, and better country. I can definitely get behind that.

If you’d like to “get behind” it as well visit their GlobalGiving page at

When asked what she would tell her friends about this project, Clare said: "Incredible: You need to see this!"

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