In this post, Becky Hurwitz reports on an interview with Brian Conley and Steve Wyshywaniuk, from Small World News (http://smallworldnews.com/), one of the V4C.org network members. Becky asks Small World News about how they define and understand Video for Change and how and why they measure the impact of their work.
About Small World News
Small World News began in 2005 with Alive in Baghdad, a project to train and support Iraqi citizens in journalistic video production. Their mission is “developing the capacity of citizens to engage with the international community in crisis areas and conflict zones” and they do this through training programs. They work with journalists and non-journalists to develop skills in video and web journalism through face to face workshops that range from a few days to series of trainings over the course of months and, in the case of Alive in Baghdad, 4 years (2005-2009).
Speaking with founders Brian Conley and Steve Wyshywaniuk, Steve explains that, to Small World News, “[V]ideo and stories are formulas at their base and teaching those formulas are the core principles [of our trainings].” This ranges from “….the ethics of journalism, the practical technical knowledge of media tools, as well as theoretical topics like visual storytelling, and video editing.” In addition to production skills, they teach skills for using distribution platforms and tactics.
Small World News is building its own capacity to provide remote and ongoing support. Together with the [the Guardian Project, Scal.io, the] International Center for Journalists and Free Press Unlimited, Small World News has been developing StoryMaker, a mobile app that teaches these skills through a series of 55 lessons. With StoryMaker, Small World News is sharing its training methodology and creating the potential that their methods and lessons can be used by people who are not in Small World News trainings.
Small World News and Measuring Impact
Presently, the impacts Small World News measures directly are short-term. They look to measure immediate impacts during a training, evaluating individual’s demonstration of skills through homework and skills demonstrated in individual’s video production. Homework topics include hands on production. “We usually start out with photo assignments, moving onto 5 clip video assignments. Moving up to 15-25 clip assignments on stories the students are interested in producing. We receive feedback on our work through questionnaires at the end of a training.”
To date, Small World News has conducted longer term assessment informally. Small World News maintains ongoing relationships with some of their trainees and through these relationships they have developed a sense of whether trainees are using skills and how. In the case of Alive in Libya, Brian and Louis, [one of Small World News’ trainers], conducted a training for 10 days. A week after the training, trainees began posting video into a shared folder. They continued to do this, posting 175 videos over the course of the next 9 months. Small World News regards this ongoing video production as an indicator of success but does not have a formal process for measuring video production after trainings.
They explain how they’ve taken into account ongoing assessment and impact evaluation in the design of StoryMaker. Brian explains, “We’re trying to do ongoing learning like StoryMaker. The idea is built in of distance learning. We’ll do a workshop in person and then have ongoing training and support after.” StoryMaker will also help them to be aware of video that trainees are creating after trainings. With StoryMaker, people can upload content to video sharing spaces that they are already using, and in this process, StoryMaker creates a reference that Small World News can measure.
In our conversation, Brian and Steve express that the metrics requested by funders do not serve their interests in measuring skill development and demonstrated practice. They mentioned that some funders focus on the number of people trained, which can sometimes overshadow the question of how well trainees learned skills. This commonly leads to trainings that do not include enough face-to-face or ongoing engagement to assess whether people are learning and able to practice skills. They are, “hoping to find measurements that we can put alongside those that will be more effective or a little more clear.”
Measuring Impact Across Video for Change Initiatives
In order to make measuring impact better in their work, SWN expresses an interest in continued discussion with other v4c trainers around training methodologies and content that seem most effective. Brian said, “There’s a need to combine people who are really good at facilitating and managing training with people who are really good at coming up with materials and overarching skills delivery.” And both expressed that people within the network have these.
With respect to creating a shared framework, they expressed that learning about one another’s assessment methods would be useful, but that each organization is likely to measure success in a way specific to its context and that it will likely be possible to adapt methods, but not to copy them entirely. To Steve, a shared framework would resemble a nutritional label, with training programs broken down into parts that could be compared across programs even given the variety to video for change training.
- impacts are short and long term;
- short term indicators include meeting training objectives – making media, learning formulas, learning processes;
- long term indicators include trainees continuing to make media;