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.
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 www.globalgiving.com/1524.
When asked what she would tell her friends about this project, Clare said: "Incredible: You need to see this!"
One exciting thing that is happening now is, one of our community producers is on a train to kashmir to shoot some videos for MTV. He is traveling with one of Video Volunteers’ trainers, and they will work together to produce short videos on the voices of Kashmiri youth for a new MTV program called MTV Iggy. It has always been one of our dreams that community producers could produce for the mainstream, and it is happening. The community producer who is going to kashmir, was himself affected by riots in 2002 based on religious conflict, in which 2000 Muslims were killed, and it will be thrilling for him to put his experiences into a regional context in South Asia — and of course into video. I will post the Kashmir videos here once they are done.
One other thing we’ve started is sending out monthly newsletters that feature one of the best ‘community videos’ made by our network in a long time. We’d love it if you’d sign up for our newsletters at www.ch19.org, and would send your feedback on the videos to me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Thanks for all the support! Jessica Mayberry
Since VV's last update, we have grown our network to comprise 12 Community Video Units, and 75 Community Video Producers. We have begun looking seriously at two aspects. One is mainstream distribution, where we have begun to distribute our media on Current TV and CNN IBN, an Indian CNN company. The other is sustainability, where VV has created a partnership to work with the leading business school in India (Indian Institute of on how to make community media sustainable. these two courses of action are indicative of what is unique about our model of community media--that it aims to eventually impact the way mainstream news is made, and that is is creating a 'media industry at the base of the pyramid' which must be financially viable. In the midst of all this, the Community Producers still remain at the heart of what we do. I now see them not so much as Trainees, but as creative activists who are making media, and whom we help and advise as needed. It is so extraordinary to watch their transformations. A final high point of the year: VV was one of the winners of the Knight News Challenge, one of the most respected initiatives in news and information. You can read more about the challenge below.
Thanks for your support of our project!
This has been a great year for us. We have launched five new Community Video Units in India. So we now have a total of 11 Community Video Units, and 65 community video producers. They've made a total of 40 films in the last year, and so we're now looking at how we get these films in front of wider audiences. We've launched a new website, www.ch19.org, which is the first website entirely dedicated to community-produced content. It shows all of our media. Our community video distribution system is working great--we've had more than 600 screenings in the last year and a half, and have reached 115,000 people.
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