international community media organization who equips women and men in underdeveloped areas


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LK Sri Lanka


About the project Edit

It is an international community media organization who equips women and men in underdeveloped areas with critical thinking, creative, activist and video journalism skills, enabling entire communities to expose underreported stories from their communities and take action to right the wrongs of poverty, injustice and inequality. In India, they have created the largest, most diverse network of salaried Community Producers in the world. Content produced by these fully-trained individuals has been broadcast in mainstream media and is regularly screened online and for hundreds of thousands of people during local events in disadvantaged communities throughout India. Because of our training, hundreds of villagers and slum dwellers working as diamond polishers, students, teachers, artists, photographers, rickshaw drivers, housewives, day laborers, and others from different walks of marginalized life have empowered their communities and transformed themselves into journalists and activists.
The profound lack of diversity in mainstream news media – both in terms of who is producing content and what is being produced – is one of the greatest concerns of the project. The organization believes that who produces the news is as important as the news itself, and that all people have the right to speak, rather than be spoken for. Video Volunteers enables worldwide audiences to experience local issues of global importance through the eyes of those that live them, offering startling new perspectives from people with the local knowledge, expertise, and resources to effect positive social change.
The expertise of the organization in enabling marginalized individuals to find their voices, raise them, have them heard, and change their communities for the better stems from our staff’s work in various communities in all geographies and social conditions. After 30+ years of combined experience creating dozens of grassroots rights-based media projects in partnership with more than 50 NGOs has heightened our on-the-ground knowledge of rural India and what it really takes to enable underdeveloped communities to own their own media. The skills the project passes on transform ordinary citizens into community journalists and activists – many of whom continue to use and develop those skills for many years.

In what ways is this project unique and creative? Edit

Video Volunteers based in Goa is working towards creating a sustainable global 'community media network', definitively the innovation is the Community Video Unit model . The organization devises models of sustainable, locally owned media, and develops training programs that give communities journalistic skills, critical thinking and creative skills to run these units and giving the poor a voice that reaches the relevant authorities.

What is the social value of this project? Edit

Through these CVU's Video Volunteers empower communities to lead, connect and change. It is proving to be a movement of sorts, helping these communities realise that their lot can improve a great deal, if universal local issues like water supply, timely garbage removal, healthcare etc. can be brought on the radar of local and district administrators.
Video Volunteers continuously creates pioneering and innovative models of community media that enable disadvantaged communities to raise their unmediated voices, create impact within their communities, and play active roles in the global media revolution. Some results in figures:
• Trained 300 Community Producers, of which more than 100 are currently working full time to cover the stories their communities want told in more than 1000 villages in nearly every state of India.
• Enabled 300,000 people to see these films during more than 2,200 night-time community screenings, and thousands more worldwide via online broadcast.
• Enabled 17,000 people to take action and implement local solutions, directly benefiting 635,000 people and giving voice to millions more.
• Publish one IndiaUnheard video a day online, with a total of more than 400 to date, freeing one unheard voice from India every day.
• Sold virtually 50% of content produced in the last two years to mainstream media and NGO clients.
• Continually demonstrate the viability of the business model to scale community media to all districts of India and eventually around the world.
• Instrumental in evolving community media into a key factor of India’s social change agenda as demonstrated by 300+ partnership applications from local and international NGOs and more than $500,000 invested by NGOs in starting programs we have designed.

What is the potential of this project to expand and develop? Edit

Currently there are 8 CVUs across India in six states, ranging from the largest slum in Asia to the most remote tribal regions of the country. In India, we have created the largest, most diverse network of salaried Community Producers in the world
The vision of the project in the future is one in which every village in India – and the world – has at least one person using the most commonly used and appropriate technologies to document human rights violations, work with their communities to face their own challenges, and find solutions. The ambition of the project is every village already has change-makers who simply need the right kind of training to be able to participate in a democratized media network.
Currently, less than 2% of stories that appear in Indian media are rural ones, while the other 98% emanate from urban areas. The goal is to have 645 Community Producers, one covering every district in India, representing the broadest range of communities. By developing this professional rural stringers network, the organization can fill mainstream media’s need for high-quality, low-cost content from rural areas as well as enable marginalized individuals to earn revenue by selling content to mainstream media.
By engaging in all these activities and more, the project will continue to create a new kind of media industry fueled by the knowledge and creativity of marginalized individuals.
Video Volunteers has been the recipients of several prestigious awards, including the Knight News Challenge, the 2007 Echoing Green Fellowship, a 2008 shortlist for the King Baudouin Foundation of Belgium’s International Development Prize , 2011 TED Fellow, the 2011 Global Social Benefit Incubator, Architect of the Future by the Waldzell Institute of Austria, Outstanding Young Personby the Junior Chamber International Osaka, the NYU Stern Social Business Plan Competition, theTech Museum Award Laureate, the Manthan Award South Asia 2009 (COMMUNITY BROADCASTING: 04), a 2006 shortlist for theDevelopment Gateway Award, the University of Queensland 2001 Communication and Social Change Award Certificate of Meritorious Commendation, and one of Grinnell College’s top fiftyYoung Innovator for Social Justice Prizes. Films made by our India Managing Trustee have won numerous awards, including the 2008 Golden Conch for Best Documentary at the Mumbai International Film Festival, the 1999 Excellence Award at Earth Vision, Tokyo’s global environmental film festival, and a 1998 Special Mention at the Amnesty International Film Festivalin Amsterdam.

What was the triggering factor of this project? Edit

Video Volunteers IndiaUnheard Community Correspondent Mukesh Rajak comes from a poor Dalit family in the Deogarh district of Jharkhand, which has some of the highest rates of teacher absenteeism in the country. On any given day, 41.9 percent of Jkarkhand’s teachers are wholly absent from the classroom. They also forced students to pay them bribes for everything from basic school supplies to taking exams to simply teaching. In 2010, Mukesh focused his attention, and his camera, on the situation in his community, made Pay Bribe, Take Education, and showed the video to authorities. Teachers were demoted. Mukesh no longer had to bribe his teachers to do their job. And neither did his 500 classmates.

What is the business model of this project? Edit

Each Community Video Unit (CVU) is started and funded by a local NGO that has chosen to invest in the vision of creating a Global Social Media Network. The low cost of cameras and editing equipment, and the explosion of cable and Internet distribution, have made this technologically possible.
Video Volunteers has engaged in partnership, funding, consultancy and training relationships with many leading organizations, including UNDP, Witness, The Fledgling Fund, the Art Action Foundation of Singapore, The Global Fund for Children, Pangea Day, International Youth Foundation, HIVOS, Creative Visions Foundation and Goethe-Institut. Video Volunteers is the community media partner for the UN’s World Summit of the Information Society (WSIS) Forum.
Models of community media developed by Video Volunteers have been further supported byUSAID, UNESCO, and the Sir Dorabji Tata Trust.
In addition to having their own YouTube channel, Video Volunteers’ work has been featured on various mainstream media channels, including MTV, Current TV, Al Jazeera, Nickelodeon, CNN-Go,NewsX, and during the Pangea Day global broadcast to over fifty countries. These collaborations, demonstrate that grassroots community-produced content can attract mainstream audiences and that mainstream media will pay for it.
Video Volunteers has partnered with over 40 NGOs and has received partnership applications from over 300 more, demonstrating that the time is right to expand the community media movement. Our pioneering efforts would never have begun without critical support from Navsarjan, Saath,Laya, Yuva, Akshara, Byrraju, Jal Bhagirathi Foundation, Yuva Shakti.

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  • DEF - Digital Knowledge Center

    DEF - Digital Knowledge Center

    Digital Knowledge Center (DKC) is an initiative of Digital Empowerment Foundation (DEF) & National Internet Exchange of India (NIXI) to function as an ‘Online repository’ of best digital contents for development in India and South Asia.

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